American Heart Month, celebrated each February, is upon us. Until recently, I never thought I would be the person raising awareness of heart disease, or the dangers associated with it. I’m 58-years-old, I’m physically fit, I’m not a smoker, and I eat a mostly healthy diet, with a few exceptions for butter and red meat.
However, in August, while training for an Alaskan hunting and camping trip, I began experiencing a burning sensation in my lungs – the type of feeling you have when you’re breathing in freezing cold air – and a shooting pain down both of my arms. These were not the symptoms I would have associated with heart disease, but lo and behold, I went to my doctor, took a stress test and was sent to Rockdale Medical Center (RMC) to see a heart specialist. I had 90% blockage of the main artery of the front wall of the heart artery.
That same day, while I was on the table at RMC, a doctor from Piedmont Hospital put a stent in my heart. I was fully awake during the procedure, and on the computer monitor next to me, I could see my heart – the veins, the arteries – and the doctor showed me exactly where my blockage was. The next day, I went home. I never felt threatened. I never felt scared. I felt like a VIP, and everything happened locally, right here in Conyers.
After my procedure, I went to RMC for cardiac rehab. There, the hospital team helped me learn how to monitor my heart rate and gave me the resources I needed to exercise and practice my daily health routine at home. Today, thanks in part to what I learned from the team at Rockdale, I exercise five days a week.
I also learned that by making simple changes to your lifestyle, whether it’s exercising more, eating healthier or reducing your stress levels, you can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease. These daily routines should coincide with regular visits to your doctor to monitor your blood pressure and check your cholesterol.
Even though heart disease is preventable and controllable, it remains the leading cause of death for both men and women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year approximately 735,000 people in the United States have heart attacks and 610,000 die from heart disease – that is one out of every four deaths. And not too many months ago, I learned that if it can happen to me, a physically fit, health-conscious guy. It can happen to anyone.
We’re incredibly lucky to have amazing doctors; kind, attentive nurses; and innovative heart services right here in Conyers at RMC. Take it from me and go see your doctor for health screenings and participate in heart healthy exercises. These little steps can help you keep your heart healthy.
Footnote: To learn more about steps you can take today to improve your heart health, talk to your physician, call RMC or visit www.heart.org.
By: David Cooper, Founder and President of Premier Platforms, Inc.