A big thank you Dr. McDonagh and the Alaska Heart Institute Team!
Beyond the Emergency Room
Embracing heart-healthy habits after a heart event
Like many before him and many since, Dave Wolfe’s cardiovascular healthcare journey began with a midnight drive to the emergency room. The chest pain he was experiencing was excruciating. It was at that point that Dave knew he couldn’t put the symptoms off any longer, and his wife drove him from his home in Wasilla to the hospital.
Dave was greeted by our very own Dr. David Sonneborn that night in 2005, the first of many interactions that Dave would have with the AHVI physicians and staff. Flash forward nine years and eight stents later, Dave has maintained a deep sense of gratitude for the friendly and knowledgeable staff at AHVI.
To those who have recently been referred to AHVI, Dave simply says, “Listen to them”. He then adds, “They’re an outstanding group. I’ve had heart troubles elsewhere, but there isn’t any comparison to the care I’ve received at AHVI.”
However, Dave acknowledges that there’s more to cardiac rehab than a weekly visit with the doctor. Living a heart-healthy lifestyle is crucial to maintaining health and making progress between appointments.
“I try to be careful with my diet. I exercise when I can.” Dave said. Even after multiple heart procedures, Dave’s story proves that an active, heart-healthy lifestyle is important for everyone, at every age.
According to the American Heart Association, walking has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity. It’s low impact and easy on the joints, and research has shown that you could gain two hours of life for every hour of regular exercise. With the summer season upon us, there is no better time to kick start your heart-healthy routine, get outside and get healthy!
For Dave, the Alaska Heart & Vascular Institute has been more than a doctor’s office; they have become part of his extended family. “I’ve been amazed at the level of care that I’ve received at AHVI. It’s not just ‘here take these pills and come back in two weeks.’ All the people that I’ve dealt with at the Heart Institute, both offices, have just been very kind and caring.”
The Heart Knows What the Heart Wants
After experiencing multiple heart attacks, participating in cardiac rehab and continuing to live with heart disease, many people would be downtrodden about the hand that life has dealt them – but Mary Jones didn’t let her cardiovascular struggles keep her down. An Alaska Heart and Vascular Institute patient since 1998, Mary had four silent heart attacks before finally getting to the hospital. But, it isn’t hte heart events themselves that are the theme of Mary’s story, it’s what resulted from them.
Mary met her husband George in cardiac rehab. At that time the prognosis was rather grim, with George having an estimated five years to live. However, Mary and George didn’t let their ailments be the center of their relationship. The couple fell in love, married and spend the next 12 blissful years of their lives together as man and wife.
For some people, visiting a cardiologist for the first time can be intimidating, stressful and even scary. Even though fear of diagnosis or potentially inconvenient lifestyle changes seem daunting, for Mary, the thought of living life without meeting her husband would have been even worse.
“Go to the doctor, listen to them, do what they say. If you have a heart attack, get into a rehab program because they’re fantastic at the Alaska Heart and Vascular Institute. You hang in there, you go with what they tell you. You don’t have to give up everything, but you do have to indulge in moderation,” Mary advised.
Proving that seemingly small, daily victories can sum to huge life improvements, Mary said, “I was on oxygen when my husband died, but by living a healthy lifestyle I haven’t been on oxygen in years.” Living a heart-healthy lifestyle is key to preventing heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
In addition to Mary’s heart healthy lifestyle, she views embracing a positive attitude as an essential ingredient to living a long life, full of love. When asked what her advice was to other heart event survivors, Mary said, “Remember that every day is a blessing.”
When it comes to making life changes, it is a marathon not a sprint. Making these changes and taking care of yourself can help you live healthier longer, and, if you’re like Mary, you may just meet the love of your life during the process.