Anatomy of a heart attack – survival and recovery

Bruce A. Smith

Part 2 in a series.

 I’m in my eighth week of recovery from a heart attack experienced on February 26, 2012.  Since then, I’ve explored the murky world of aftercare, finding great relief in the Good Samaritan cardiac rehabilitation clinic in South Hill.

 Rehab is a lot like a gym where guys like me can slowly rebuild stamina and muscles, guiding the body’s recovery from the trauma of a stent placement or bypass surgery back to full health.  Besides the treadmill machines and rowing devices, there are weekly educational classes and nutritional seminars that include tours of a local Safeway grocery store.

 But one of the greatest benefits has been my exposure to advanced theories – and highly controversial to mainstream medicine – in reversing the effects of heart disease through a diet absent of any animal products and extremely low in fats and oils.  Perhaps the leading proponents of this perspective is Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. and Dr Colin Campbell, whose work is featured in the popular documentary “Forks Over Knives.”

 In my next essay I’ll discuss Esselstyn and Campbell’s plant-based, cholesterol-free nutritional program in more detail.

 Before then, I’d like to address another important element of the cardiac “underground” – those programs and ideas that helped fuel my desire to heal my heart, and which exist slightly off the radar screen of Good Sam’s standard rehabilitative care.

 Chief among these is the Yale Heart Study, which I found posted on a dusty bulletin board.  It’s based in the Yale University’s School of Nursing and administered by a Dr. Angelo Alonzo, Ph. D, who has been a life-long public health official specializing in medical sociology and cardiac care-seeking. 

Dr. Angelo Alonzo, head of the Yale Heart Study. Picture courtesy of the YHS and Dr. Alonzo.

 The purpose of the Yale Heart Study is to learn how Americans respond to the first signs of a heart attack and how quickly we get ourselves to a hospital.  This information is of critical importance since one out of two Americans are currently expected to die of heart disease. 

 The truth is that most of us are confused and scared when things start to go wrong with our heart, and many of us drag our feet before we get help.  Doc Alonzo helped me understand how fortunate I was to be alive, and that’s what I want to share with you now.

 The statistics on heart attacks are alarming.  40% of guys like me don’t make it in time to the Emergency Room – that’s 3,000 guys a day, seven days a week.  On average, most Americans take about four hours to get help, and time is not the friend of a troubled heart – and I took twelve hours.

 Further, for many the symptoms of heart trouble are too varied or confusing for us to make decisive actions, or they run into a gamut of mental and emotional resistance that serve to help us get through the ordinary challenges of life but can kill us when the pain is signaling a plugged artery.

 More disturbing, the above people who wait are the fortunate ones since for 25% of all heart attack suffers death is the first symptom.

 Doc Alonzo is looking into all of these variables in his Yale Heart Study, a nationwide survey seeking answers from 2,300 heart attack patients on what happened to them – what the onset of symptoms were like – and what they did about them and how quickly.

 My experience was classic, and I share it here to illustrate a general template for how many Americans, particularly men, react to their heart attack.

 My onset of symptoms began the night before I went to the hospital.  At midnight on Saturday Feb. 25 I went for a walk, which was part of my daily regimen of physical fitness.  I needed to go for a walk because I was at risk for heart trouble since I was overweight, 62, and leading an increasing sedentary lifestyle as a journalist who sat perched in front of a computer screen most days.

 At the end of my driveway I felt a pain exploding in my chest – like a grenade going off – and it spread into my arms.  I stopped and leaned over.  The pain did not dissipate.

 Is this angina?  I thought.

 I had been researching the subject of angina and was scheduled to speak with a physician the next day for an article for the Mountain News.

Angina is caused by the reactions of muscle tissue to toxic buildup in the cells due to inadequate blood flow and oxygen exchange.  As a result, chemical residues are not flushed out of the cells and they cause cramps and pain.

 That was my rationalization, and it worked.  Never for a second did I seriously consider that I was having a heart attack, nor did I ponder if I should call 9-1-1.

 Since it was late, I went home and went to sleep.  Fortunately, I woke up.  When I did, I didn’t feel any symptoms, nor did I when I spent an hour in meditative focus, visualizing scrubbing out my arteries and veins with mind-as-matter techniques that I’ve learned in Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment in Yelm.

 Afterwards, my friend Dave called and asked if I could take some pictures of him working in his garden, which I had promised to do once we had sunny weather.  However, while getting dressed my pain came back – it was like fire crackers going off repeatedly in my chest, and now they were radiating up into my jaw and face.

 Nevertheless, I continued dressing and went out into Dave’s nearby garden with my camera.

 “I’m not feeling too good Dave,” I said.  “I think I might be having an angina attack.  Do you know anything about taking aspirin for heart stuff, like angina?”

 I heard aspirin is good,” Dave replied.  “Maybe you should take some.”

 “I will, but let me take some pictures first.”

 We headed out into the rows of kale and I took about a dozen pix.  My pain got worse and I began to feel nauseous.

 “Dave, I’m really feeling lousy.  I gotta quit.”

 I walked back to my home and sat down.  I took some aspirin.  The pain continued and was ringing in my cavities and my palms got sweaty.

 This is getting serious, I thought.  But not knowing what to do, I called Dave to ask him to come over and help me decide on a course of action – but his line was busy.

 “Damn.”

 I called again, but it was still busy.  The pain intensified.

 I need help.  I picked up the phone a third time and dialed 9-1-1.

 The emergency dispatcher picked up on the first ring.

 “9-1-1; may I help you?” she said, and thus began my journey to cardiac health.

 The events of the next few hours are told elsewhere, but what I’ve described above is a classic response to a blocked coronary artery – and I had two.  https://themountainnewswa.net/2012/03/18/a-love-letter-to-all-of-you-anatomy-of-a-heart-attack/#more-5097

 To whit, symptoms of a heart attack are: Chest pains that radiate.  Sweaty palms and other “clammy” responses.  Nausea.  These are major symptoms.

 Other folks feel ill, like they are coming down with a cold or flu.  

 When my symptoms hit I was confused intellectually.  I didn’t know exactly what a heart attack was supposed to feel like so I mis-diagnosed myself when I had symptoms on my walk.

 Then I rationalized away the pain, thinking it was angina.  It wasn’t; it was a heart attack.

 Then, the next day, my routine and spiritual practices took prominence, and then the responsibility of promises and friendship over-rode the return of my chest pain and I went off to film Dave.

 Later, when overwhelming pain forced me to go back home, it was only when I had even more pain that I found the courage to call 9-1-1 on my own.

 Doc Alonzo told me that my actions are typical behaviors for single guys who live alone.  We keep trying to tough-it-out and explain the pain away.  If spouses and family are around, the call to 9-1-1 is made much sooner.

 Alonzo said circumstances also play a major role in determining how quickly someone gets medical attention, since heart attacks can happen during work or in inconvenient places, such as commuting on public transportation, social gatherings and outdoor events, or are compounded by family obligations.

 “People want to certain that they need medical care, and it takes a long time to clarify what is happening,” Alonzo said.  “Often we need validation from someone else that something is wrong, such as a spouse.”

 Alonzo acknowledges that the symptoms of a heart attack can be confusing, unknown or unfamiliar, which further delays decision making.

 “Statistically, it is taking people about four hours to get to a hospital after the onset of symptoms,” said Alonzo, declaring that the best chance for recovery occurs when a patient can get to a hospital within an hour.

 “We are seeing people getting to hospitals faster in the past year or two, and in many places the average is down to about two and a half hours,” Alonzo said. 

 Besides the psychological variables to getting to a hospital, the study is balanced geographically between urban, suburban and rural areas, and includes the dynamics of paramedical responses in small cities, which may still be far away from a hospital of significant size, such as Eatonville.

 Alonzo also said that response times within the hospital setting are also improving, with shorter waits in the ER, faster EKGs and blood tests, and expedited runs to surgery – all borne out in my experience at Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, WA.

 In fact, Alonzo told me that the best place in the world to have a heart attack is in the Pacific Northwest, as our paramedics are the best trained and best equipped, and our emergency rooms and cardiac teams are the best prepared.

 Also, myths need to be debunked – women get heart attacks, too – in fact, more women die of heart attacks than men.

 If you would like to be part of the Yale Heart Study and you’ve had a heart attack within the past year, you can join the study – it’s online at www.heartstudy.yale.edu or contact Dr. Alonzo at heart.study@yale.edu .  It’s completely anonymous and takes about 30 to 60 minutes to complete depending on your care-seeking experiences.  The survey can be done in total privacy online.

 “Anonymity encourages truthfulness,” said Alonzo, who added that the outreach will continue for another six months or so, until about October 31, 2012.

 “November 1, the analysis begins,” he said.

 Dr. Alonzo is particularly interested in having African-Americans participate, as these folks have the highest mortality rates for heart attacks in the United States.  Further, African-Americans have the greatest difficulty getting to a hospital, and they have the least amount of access to cardiac rehabilitation for their recovery.

 “We want their experience to be represented,” said Dr. Alonzo, and yet only nineteen African-Americans have joined the study in the first six months of outreach, which includes direct contact with African-American ministers.

 For its overall outreach, the Yale Heart Study has bought advertising space on Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Bing.  They have also contacted health bloggers and the Yale Alumni Association, along with developing contacts with reporters at online news organizations, such as Susan O’Malley at the Huffington Post.

 Dr Alonzo’s group has also developed action teams of students and volunteers who make direct contact with seniors, especially grandparents.  Some 4-H members are earning a Yale community service award by helping their grandparents, parents and other relatives and friends who have had a heart attack participate in the Yale Heart Study.

 In addition, the web sites for the Yale Heart Study carry many state-of-the-art messages about heart healthy diets and exercise practices.  You can visit their two most visited sites for more information: http://www.facebook.com/YaleHeartStudy and http://yaleheartstudy.org/ .

Above, Dr. Angelo Alonzo, keeping a light heart.  Picture, courtesy of Dr. Alonzo.

 ©  2012  Mountain News – WA

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31 Responses to Anatomy of a heart attack – survival and recovery

  1. Dick Thurston says:

    I had a similar expereince in 2001. Was at a ball game, felt lousy, took some antacid which seemed to help. This was Friday. Saturday, I’m working in my garden had angina pain, took some nitroglycerine and it went away. At that point I said, “chest pain, relieved by rest, goes away with nitro. Sounds like heart trouble to me.” But being the hero type I said nothing to my wife until Monday morning at which time I said “Been having chest pain over the weekend, better take me to the doctor.” Doctor sends me in for immediate arteriogram – yep, blocked vessels – and so to bed , next day triple bypass. I was lucky – no actual heart attack. But all you studs out there, don’t be brave – call 911. Your family doesn’t need a dead hero.

  2. Paula Morris says:

    Excellent article Bruce! Information like this can save lives!

    Can’t wait to read about the plant based diet. I’ve been reading some really awful stuff about our typical sources of protein, i.e., beef, chicken and fish. Protein is necessary to build strong bodies, we’ve been told, but what we haven’t been told is that we can obtain protein from some vegetables and grains like quinoa.

    Our food pyramid has been created as propaganda to sell our overly subsidized agricultural and meat factory products….corn, wheat, and meat–great recipes for early heart disease!

    Looking forward to your next article.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Thanks, Paula.

      Yes, the plant-based nutritional plan is radical. All the proteins and nutrients we need for health are found in plants.

      In fact, research is showing that animal products actually cause disease. Incidents of osteoporosis are highest where consumption of dairy products is highest. The canard that dairy products are vital because they are a source of calcium is being overturned. Current information that I have seen suggests that diary products induce a body-wide state of acidity and the body in response has to buffer the chemical assault by pulling calcium out of the bones to flood the system with a source of an alkaline substance.

      Further, the dairy protein casein has been shown to trigger the growth of cancer cells.

      I’m just starting my research on these issues, but I’ve changed my diet already to a plant-based, whole foods program. It’s not easy, but it feels vital.

    • Cele Noble says:

      I agree with your post Paula—and , like you, am eagerly awaiting Bruce’s article on the plant based diet. And THANKS to Bruce for posting such useful information.

  3. Leslie Carey says:

    Bruce,
    Thank you for sharing your story. It’s a great reminder and information worth sharing with friends. I think I understand the desire to overlook symptoms and over-ride good judgement for fear of looking foolish if we are wrong. Reading about the experiences of others is a good way to gain the confidence to make that decision to get help. We are so fortunate that help is readily available!

  4. I come from a family with a wretched gene pool of several genetic issues, including heart disease. In my 30s I decided to take ownership of my own health, cleaned up my diet, exercised, swam, walked, played tennis and began taking nutritional supplements. I also decided to see a Naturopath in addition to my yearly exam from my wonderful physician. Both she and the Naturopath advised me to add Co Q 10, to my regiman, and the ND also advised Hawthorn, L-Arginine, Niacine, and a natural cholesterol lowering capsule. From magazine articles, written by health advisore, I also take Revesterol (because I don’t drink wine) and cinnamon and honey liberally as it helps keep the arteries supple. I tried the plant based food plan for 7 weeks and got very sick and had no evergy. My ND says that everyone needs red meat occasionally as it contains an enzyme that is unavailable anywhere else. So, we eat plenty of veggies, Quiona, brown rice, and whole grains plus chicken breasts (organic of course) and enjoy a lean beef roast once in a while, one that has no hormones or antibiotics . There are several sources of natural/organic meat in the area.

    You are blessed, Bruce, to have survived such an obvious heart attack; God must have his hand on you and something special for you to do.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Thanks for your kind words of support, Claudia, and thanks again for telling us of your own health journey.

      Along the lines of your naturopath’s recommendations, I too, am taking Co-Q 10 upon the advice of my stepdaughter Debra, who is a chiropractor in Pennsylvania. Deb also has me taking a vitamin supplement that is called Catalyn.

      As for doing the work of the Divine, I believe there is a lot of truth to what you are saying, Claudia. Newspaper reporting is one of the most authentic and rewarding jobs I have ever done, and I feel utterly blessed in managing and writing the Mountain News.

      -BAS

  5. Dick Thurston says:

    Claudia is basically correct. Vegan and vegetarians generally are not healthier nor longer-lived than the population as a whole. A striclty vegan diet (no animal products at all) is extremely difficult to survive on. The human body has evolved to survive on a diet including both plant and animal materials. The average American certainly consumes a much higher proportion of red meat, dairy fat and refined carbohydrates that is optimal. Shiftng the emphasis to plant-based foods is healthy, but the total exclusion of meat products and dairy is not sound nutrition. My neivce, the veterinarian, does not eat red meat but she does eat fish, cheese and other dairy products. A Big Mac and fries once a month won’t hurt you. Twice a day will do you in.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      The most important question for me is, “What diet do I need to be on for me to be the healthiest?” The next question in this conversation is, “Whom can I trust – or more specifically, what information from the medical industry and the food industry can I believe, and use to base my decisions upon?”

      With $150 billion at play in the cardiac surgery business alone – and I can only begin to fathom the umpteen billions backing the meat, poultry, fish and dairy industries – does the truth have a chance?

      Fortunately, I believe I have found a source for solid documentation that will help me, and that is two-fold: Dr. Elmer Cranton’s “Bypassing Bypass Surgery,” and the aforementioned “Forks Over Knives,” featuring the works of Drs. Campbell, Esselstyn, McDougall, et.al. Their work shows conclusively, in my judgment, that the best way to reverse the effects of heart disease is through a whole foods, plant-based, diet filled with fresh produce.

      Perhaps I will be a guinea pig of sorts and break new ground in this nutritional revolution against the corporate food giants. Regardless, whatever my journey – you will have the opportunity to read about it in the Mountain News!

      -BAS

  6. brucesmith49 says:

    Editor’s Note: I just received this email from Washington PIRG, an environmental activitst group. To visit their website: http://www.washpirg.org/ . They are fighting Big Ag, and their campaign reveals some of what we’re up against in terms of corporate oppostion for good food and healthy eating habits, especially the deluge of corn sweeteners in so many prepared foods and drinks, which have been shown to be a major source of the obesity epidemic in America:

    Hi Bruce A.,

    Add your name to our petition to end junk food subsidies.

    Some of the money that you and I pay in taxes ends up in Twinkies.

    More than $1 billion in tax subsidies help pay for junk food ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils that are main ingredients in Twinkies, soda and thousands of other junk food products. [1]

    That’s the equivalent of 2.8 billion Twinkies every year — which, if you strung them end to end, would stretch from Seattle to Boise 347 times.

    These subsidies are expiring in August, but Big Ag is lobbying hard to keep them. That’s why we’re ramping up our efforts this summer — and it all starts with your signature. Can you add your name to our petition to Congress to end junk food subsidies?

    Working with our partner groups across the country, we’re hoping to get 100,000 signatures — and Washington needs to do our part. We need your help to hit these ambitious goals.

    Childhood obesity has quadrupled over the last 40 years. Surely the time has come to stop handing over billions of dollars to giant agribusinesses to help subsidize junk food. [2]

    Here’s the petition:

    Please put an end to junk food subsidies. Since 1995, $17 billion in subsidies to big agribusiness companies have gone to high-fructose corn syrup and other junk food ingredients.

    Especially in light of the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country, these subsidies are unacceptable. Please cut them from the federal budget and the reauthorization of the Farm Bill.

    It might seem like a no-brainer to get rid of these ridiculous subsidies, but it’s been an uphill battle — because of giant agribusinesses like Cargill and Monsanto and their lobbying machine. Big Ag spent $200 million on lobbying and campaign contributions in 2008. [3]

    But despite the fact that they’ve got deep pockets, we know that no one in Congress wants to be seen standing up for taxpayer giveaways to junk food. With public concern about obesity and federal spending at all time highs, public support can help us finally beat Big Ag and end subsidies for junk food.

    Already we’ve made progress. We’ve talked to more than 800,000 people across the country and earned bipartisan support.

    Our state’s leadership is key. Not only do we have a large number of small farms — 82% of Washington’s farm don’t see a dime of these handouts — but we’re already a state that values real food not junk food. [4]

    Can you add your name to our petition?

    Thanks for all your support,

    Sasha Rosen
    WashPIRG Organizing Director

    1. WashPIRG Foundation, “Apples to Twinkies.” September, 2011.
    2. Centers for Disease Control.
    3. Open Secrets: Lobbying expenditures here and campaign contributions here.
    4. Environmental Working Group, 2011 Farm Subsidy Database.

    WashPIRG HOMEPAGE | ABOUT | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | DONATE

    WashPIRG: Washington Public Interest Research Group

  7. Jodi says:

    After surviving the widow maker last fall at the age of 42 (only 20% of women survive it),I follow Dr. Esselystyn’s and Dr. Campbell’s plant based diet theory. Not only have I lost 27 lbs since January, I have never felt better!

  8. Jodi says:

    Thanks Bruce! I appreciate the nod. I only hope my new found knowledge will help someone else prevent heart attack. Congrats on the 10– I think it gets easier after the first 10!

  9. Carolyn Thomas says:

    Quite a dramatic story, Bruce! I’m so glad you survived.

    I’m also glad that Jodi mentioned that women experience the “widow maker” heart attack, too (as I did as well in 2008).

    You have mentioned here the “guys” in your cardiac rehab group, and “guys” like you who don’t survive their heart attacks, and “single guys who live alone” who delay seeking immediate help. This is typical of virtually all cardiac literature until the past decade or so, and serves to perpetuate the myth embraced by many (including, tragically, some physicians!) that heart disease is largely a man’s problem. They don’t, for example, call the heart attack that Jodi and I survived as the “WIDOWER maker”.

    In 2005, the American Heart Association surveyed physicians to find out how many were aware that, as you correctly point out, more women than me die from cardiovascular disease each year (a stat that’s been true since 1984). The results were shocking: only 8% of family doctors were aware of this fact, and (even worse!) only 17% of cardiologists knew it! CARDIOLOGISTS! This is their business. This is all they do!

    Like you, I too experienced textbook heart attack symptoms during my own heart attack (crushing chest pain, sweating, nausea, pain radiating down my left arm) but I think it’s important to remind your readers that about 40% of us experience NO chest symptoms at all during a heart attack: nothing, nada, zilch, zero. Especially true for women, who can experience more vague and atypical symptoms. For examples of these weird and wonderful differences, see “How Does It Really Feel to Have a Heart Attack? Women Survivors Tell Their Stories” at: http://myheartsisters.org/2009/08/14/how-does-it-feel/

  10. Carolyn Thomas says:

    PS Just noticed my typo – second last paragraph should read “more women than MEN” not “more women than ME!” Oooops! 😦

  11. Jodi says:

    Good to see Carolyn here! Everyone should check out her blog as well as she has some very valuable information!

  12. brucesmith49 says:

    Very true, Carolyn – women are every bit as involved in the heart disease story as men. I’ll have to revise my use of the phrase, “guys like me” to involve women as well. In my cardiac rehab program I would say that just about half of the patients are women, although at my last seesion there were six patients and they were all men – but that was unusual.

    One thing that came up in my rehab’s educational sessions is that just as many women get heart attacks as men, but they get them later in life – on average about ten years after men. I see that with the women in my rehab program. There are many men in their 30s, 40s and 50s in cardiac rehab, but no women under 60, or late 50s, I estimate.

    I hear that women may have a wider variety of symptoms, too, with more vague symptoms than men. That’s anecdotal, though. Nevertheless, thanks for listing the range of symptoms – that’s important.

    -BAS

    • Carolyn Thomas says:

      Hello again Bruce – Cardiac rehab is an interesting sociological experiment; it will be interesting for you to observe your own group’s demographics as time goes by. Researchers tell us that only 20% of ALL patients entering rehab programs in North America are women, despite the fact that we experience almost half of all cardiac events. Men are twice as likely to be referred for cardiac rehab by their physicians in the first place. Women who ARE referred are three times more likely to become rehab dropouts than their male counterparts in fact. And even if women do eventually complete the full program, their attendance throughout tends to be sporadic compared to men! It’s tragic, really, given the proven health outcomes that are linked with completing a full rehab program.

      Dr. Chris Blanchard at Dalhousie University in Halifax has studied cardiac rehab programs for years, and has come up with nine possible reasons for this gender imbalance: http://myheartsisters.org/2009/12/30/women-only-cardiac-rehab/

      Take care!
      C.

    • Dick Thurston says:

      Quite right Bruce. A few years ago, my daughter’s boss – a very healthy woman – died of a sudden heart attack at age 36. NOBODY is immune.

      • brucesmith49 says:

        This issue is getting more serious by the day. Plus, we haven’t heard from the folks who have both heart disease and diabetes. The two seem to go hand-in-hand, and both can be helped by nutritional adjustments.

        Bruce

  13. brucesmith49 says:

    Yikes, Carolyn, I see on your blog that dozens of women have had heart attacks when they are as young as 28 years old, and certainly throughout their 30s, 40s and 50s! Wow. I’ll pass that information along.

  14. Katherine MacTavish says:

    Thanks for your story Bruce. I had a heart attack in 08′. It was caused by a Nicotrol inhaler. Funny I was only using three ampules per day when recommended maximum dose is sixteen. The Nicotrol cause days worth of severe esophageal spasms for about a week. With the first one I thought it was a heart attack called 911 and went right to the ER. but, they couldn’t find anything wrong. They couldn’t find any dead heart cells in my blood. When you have a heart attack there’s a huge amount of dead heart cells and even on a regular day there are usually a few dead heart cells in everyone’s blood. The EKG was normal, they told me it wasn’t a heart attack and go home. They didn’t tell me to stop using the inhaler. A week later I was still having severe chest pain but, it had started radiating down both arms and legs and up into my jaw. I called 911. The same guys that had taken me to the hospital the previous week showed up again. They did another EKG on the spot and said “Gee, I think you’re having a real heart attack this time!” I wanted to kick him in the groin, I’d been having this pain for seven days. But, the doctors couldn’t find any dead heart cells in my blood and they couldn’t figure out what was causing the “faulty” EKG reading. This time I told the doctors, I don’t care what you say! You’re going to put me in the hospital and find out what’s causing this pain and make it stop! Then an actual cardiologist arrived! He asked me a lot of questions about any meds I was taking and told me to stop using the nicotrol inhaler because they know to cause irregular heartbeats. but when I told him that I was taking 250mg of Resveratrol per day he called for an X-Ray of my chest and told the other doctors that, “Thats why you can’t find any dead heart cells you idiots!” “Resveratrol won’t let them die!” And, I’m thinking,Woo Hoo! I did something right! The X-ray showed three collapsed arteries. They did a triple angioplasty, which I don’t remember even though the doc told me I was wide awake and joking with him the whole time. Apparently the pain was so intense I blanked on everything after they stuck that huge needle in the main artery in thigh. I do remember watching a cool monitor with a black and white image of the catheter going up my artery into my heart to place the stents. Oh, by the way, if you have a problem with blood clots like I do. Don’t let them instal medicated stents. They cause blood clots and you may have to be on severe amounts of blood thinner which cause secondary heart attacks and strokes. They put me on 75mg Plavix and 81mg aspirin per day and I almost had a stroke. I could feel the micro blood vessels in my head exploding for a few weeks before I stopped that treatment and started using Nattokinase.
    The difference between the two is that Plavix causes the walls of your arteries and veins to become so slippery that your blood platelete’s (which carry nutrients to the inner walls of you’re arteries to keep them strong) cannot adhere and deliver their nutrients. Then Your arteries weaken and bust causing secondary heart attacks and strokes. “Nattokinase” causes the platelettes to become slippery so they don’t adhere to one another but they can still adhere to the inner walls on your arteries and veins to deliver nutrients keeping them strong. Then your while blood cells come along and clean them off the walls.

  15. Pingback: Anatomy of a Heart Attack – Survival and Recovery | The Mountain … - Early Signs of Heart Attack

  16. Aurea Guger says:

    angina is quite painful and in some cases this could be reallly deadly.:

    Our own online site
    http://www.healthmedicinecentral.com/reoccuring-yeast-infections/

  17. Bobby says:

    Thank you for you story. I’m happy that you made it through and for the better. I had a heart attack on the 2nd of November last year. I have a fairly long message, so…
    I was driving back to work, having used my lunch hour to run errands, when I felt a sharp pain in my chest. I was quite taken aback and alarmed. I called my wife and told her that I thought I was having a heart attack. She reply “You’re just being a hypochondriac.” She was teasing. Unfortunately, I thought I might be overreacting. Then pain then began to radiate down my left arm and I knew I needed to get some medical attention… quickly. I called my wife again, told her what was going on, and asked her to call a nearby clinic. She did and quickly called back and told me that the nurse there said that I shouldn’t go there. I should go to a hospital ER. I thought about it for a second and decided to ignore the nurse and go to the clinic – only a couple of minutes away. My wife met me at the clinic. I walked in and told the receptionist that I thought I was having a heart attack. A nurse quickly came out. She was the nurse with whom my wife had spoken. She scolded me and then asked my symptom while taking my blood pressure. It was very high. She had another nurse set me up in the neighboring room and hook me up to get get an EKG. I was still in pain, but the EKG didn’t show anything definitive. A doctor came in a few minutes later and examined me while checking the EKG. He said I was probably having an anxiety attack, but that an ambulance was called to take me to the ER to be on the safe side. That was the last thing I remember until I looked up and had two men in blue trying to put an IV in my arm. I was twitching and rolling uncontrollably and felt completely disoriented. At that moment, I thought “I must be having a heart attack.” The paramedics – the guys in blue – then wheeled me out to the ambulance. They kept asking how I was doing. After a few minutes, I settled down and was able to relax my body. I let them know that I was fine. There wasn’t any more pain. When we arrived at the ER, the paramedic, as he was handing me off to the team in the ER, very nonchalantly announced “52 year old male… complained of chest a pains.. then coded for 5-6 minutes… did CPR and defibrillated him back.” That was the first time that I realized what had happened. In the ER I was completely lucid to everyone’s surprised. I actually grabbed my phone and called my wife, who was on her way to the ER. Disobeying the ER Team’s requests to put down my phone, I called my son and talked with him until my wife arrived.
    After a short check of my vitals, the ER Team prepped me to go to the CathLab. During the prep I kept talked with my wife and the staff. Once in the CathLab, I was prepped – read given a Mohawk down there. The cardiologist showed up and described what was going to happen and proceeded with my angioplasty and stent. It all went well and from my first symptoms to me being wheeled to my room at the hospital, less than an hour had elapse. Everyone tells me just how luck I am and that going to the clinic instead of the ER probably saved my life. I just know that I’m happy to be around.
    As it turns out, that was the easy part. Now I’m in recovery and taking more meds and supplements than anyone should. I’ve been reading and discussing my situation with doctors and nutritionists. What to do?
    To answer this, let’s go back a few years… I married at 30, had a couple of kids, and let life take over. I was fairly indulgent in my eating – love red meat and don’t enjoy veggies or fish unless, of course they’re breaded and fried. I smoked the occasional cigar, drank a little wine and beer – really only a little, and with the exception of poker exercised as seldom as possible. I’m 6’2″ and was well north of 250 pounds when I had my heart attack.
    My cardiologist explained to me what had happened. It was classic, plaque ruptured, a rush of platelets, and viola massive clot in an artery supplying blood to my left ventricle. He showed my models of how clogged my arteries are and told me that I had to make drastic lifestyle changes. He also added a caveat that I probably wouldn’t do what was needed… nobody does. I was scheduled for cardiac rehab and began to make the changes that are recommended. All of them.
    Again, let’s go back a lot of years. I was a very competitive triathlete in my twenties and did a lot of studying and experimenting to be as competitive as possible.My experimentation included diet. So I felt that I had a pretty good head start on my path to recovery. I did and I really didn’t. In thirty years there have been a lot of advances that I had no clue about.
    I started reading, perusing the Internet, and talking with anyone I knew was into nutrition, healthcare, or exercise. When cardiac rehab started, I felt ready to go. I showed up on the first day and was given information via a PowerPoint presentation, introduction to the exercise machines, and was told to take it easy. Really?
    I was rearing to go. I jumped on a stationary bike and immediately started peddling. It felt great. Shortly after starting, the nurse told me that I had to slow down that my heart rate was way to high. My cardiologist had given me a limit of 140. My thinking was that my heart is a muscle and it was injured during my heart attack. Injured muscle equals rest and then work it harder to make it stronger and more resilient. I was in a constant battle with the staff that ran the cardiac rehab. In the end, I think I won out. After two weeks of teetering at my HR limit, I convinced them to contact my cardiologist and request that I be allowed to go up to 160. He looked at my EKGs and gave me a green light. Each week, I received more information about what to eat and what not to eat and how important it was to exercise… yawn. Eight weeks to get about three hours of info that wasn’t necessarily useful. The staff was great, but the program was sorely lacking. BTW, I’m an educational technologist by trade and tried to give the staff feedback on how to improve their program and provide tools to improving lifestyle and not just a lot of information. Anyhow, I’ve been reading “Fat Chance” by John Lustig. It is a bit technical, but it goes into a lot about how your body processes food. It really focuses on our diets having too much sugar and a severe lack of fiber. It makes sense and has really opened my eyes to the fact that we are what we eat. In particular, he talks about metabolic syndrome and how it affects how much fat ends up in the wrong places. This fat in the wrong places is essentially what is causing us to have arteriosclerosis, diabetis, and host of other problems. It’s a bit slow with a lot of conspiracy theory about the “Big Food” industry, but still worth the read.
    My message is that there’s an awful lot of information out there. Some good and some not so good. Watch out for all the marketing hype and scrutinize the information even from so-called reputable sources. Unfortunately, our health is in our own hands and it can be managed smartly once we know how. Sifting through the noise and getting to the how is tough, but I’m optimistic.
    Since my heart attack, I’ve lost 40 plus pounds and am shooting to lose another 25-30 by summer. I’ve been exercising – riding, running, and swimming; eating more intelligently – no red meat, lean chicken and fish, a lot more veggies (I still don’t like them), very limited sodium and sugar, and as little processed food as possible; and learning as much as I can about nutrition. It seems to be working and if I live another 15-20 years in good health, I’ll consider it a success. Good luck to everyone!

  18. John says:

    Great article, my story is similar to yours. Too arrogant and too tough to ever have a coronary. But on April 8, 2013 I suffered a widow maker attack at the ripe old age of 51. Lucky for me I was staying at my girlfriends and she convinced me at 3am to go to the ER. To my surprise my vitals were good and the ER nurse said I wasn’t having an attack. After monitoring my vitals for a few hours the doctors told me I could go home or they recommended I stay and have a stress test. At 11:30 the cardiologist told me all looked good and I would probably go home after the tests. The plan for me was a before Eco-Cardiogram, the stress test and then a follow up Eco. Steps one and two went fine and I passed my stress test. While lying on the gurney waiting for the after Eco it hit. It was like nothing I ever felt and luckily they treated me immediately. I could feel the cool air of the oxygen going into my nose but it felt like it was going directly out of my mouth. It was a feeling I will never forget. Lucky for me my GF (soon to be fiancée) will not be a premature widow. As I approach the 3 month mark I feel physically better (lost 38pounds) but now my mental health is getting questionable. I have changed my eating habits, I exercise and I am working on dealing with stress in healthier ways (not easy). I am in cardio rehab, I go two days a week and it makes me feel good both physically and mentally. Being around people who know what I went through helps, although most are open heart patients and only one other person actually had a heart attack. People who haven’t shared this life changing event simply think that I should just be happy to be alive and I am! but I am scared. Every time I exercise I wonder if it will hit again. I push to be in better physical shape but I don’t want to push too hard. When James Gandolafini died I went into a depressed state that evening. One 51 yo Jersey boy lives and one doesn’t. My life has changed drastically, some by choice some by the events. I feel in control of what I can do to prevent another attack but wonder if I really have any control. Hoping as time goes on I feel like I am in complete control of my life again. Reading about fellow survivors helps me on that journey. Thank you

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