February is Heart Health Month: This Chandler Resident Is Thankful She's Here To Celebrate It

By Nancy Woodward

As a 48-year-old woman, mother and tech executive, everyday has been a gift and everyday has been a struggle since my heart attack and stent placement in June of 2014. While I feel very blessed to have beaten the odds and to still be able to be in the lives of my family and those I care about, being a heart attack survivor requires diligent daily effort to take care of my health, my heart and make sure I have an appropriate balance of priorities in my life.
In the spring of 2014 I started to have pain in the right side of my neck and head. The headaches and neck pain went on for a few months. Sometimes I'd have shortness of breath, feel lightheaded and experienced increased fatigue. I don't remember having any significant chest pain during this time. Then one day everything dramatically increased in severity and I had my son take me to the hospital. The doctors did tests on my head and neck, but found nothing wrong. The doctor asked my permission to do additional tests on my heart. Some doctors may have sent me home at that point, but my doctor was determined to find out what was going on.

After a series of additional tests, it was determined that I had a 99% block in my left anterior descending artery or LAD, often referred to as a widow-maker. I had survived a heart attack that could have easily resulted in death. Shortly thereafter, the doctors placed a stent in my artery and told me the rest of my arteries look incredibly good, and that if I took care of myself, I should enjoy a long life. Being only in my forties, relatively healthy, and having never smoked or drank alcohol in my life, the doctors were baffled how my heart attack could have happened.
Shortly after the heart attack, I spent a tremendous amount of time researching information to better understand my condition and what I could do to prevent any further damage to my heart. First, I found a wonderful cardiologist, and together we have worked on keeping me healthy with a combination of medication, diet and exercise. I went back to school and got certified as a Plant-Based Professional and learned how to cook food that is nutritional and heart smart. With a history of heart disease in our family through me and my former husband, I spent time with my children helping them understand how important it is for them to keep their hearts strong too through appropriate diet and exercise. I also got involved with the American Heart Association as a Go Red Ambassador to help other women understand the shocking statistics of heart disease in our country, and that there are things they can do to protect themselves.
Nearly 50,000 women died of a heart attack in 2014.
It does require effort each and every day, yet the blessing of being alive and being here for my family is worth the focus I have now. The wake-up call I had because of my heart attack has caused me to re-evaluate my priorities in my life, and create a more essential-based balance. Now I recognize and fully embrace the belief that taking care of my health is an essential way that I can give back to others in this life, especially those that I love.

Learn about Heart Health Tips you can incorporate into your daily routine.

Heart Health Tips

You might think that getting fit and boosting your heart health means spending hours upon hours at the gym, sweating and getting on machines that look more like torture devices than anything that’s going to help you. Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not true. In fact, reaping the heart-healthy benefits of exercise doesn’t have to take a huge time commitment – nor does it have to be torturous. It can actually be quite fun!

Here are five fitness tips to get your ticker healthy and happy:

1. Start with activities you love

If you’ve had problems making exercise a regular part of your life, then I imagine you only think of exercise as something you have to do in the gym. But that’s just not true! Things like walking, dancing in your living room, bowling and even cleaning the house can count as exercise as long as you’re getting a little out of breath when you’re doing them.

So sit down and make a list of all of the active things you do and find a way to make at least one of them a part of your day, every day. Then, after a few months of making those activities habits, try new ones or more traditional workouts like a group exercise class.  As you get in the habit of being active and start to get more fit, you might just be amazed and what activities you like.

2. Embrace the power of 10

Think you can’t get heart-health benefits from just 10-minute bouts of activity? Think again. Ten minutes of walking three times a day has been shown to lower blood pressure more effectively than a longer 30-minute bout of walking. Something as simple as walking before work, over lunch and after dinner is a fabulous way to squeeze in exercise – no gym required!

3. It’s not just about cardio

When people think of heart-healthy exercise, they generally think of aerobic or cardio activities like jogging. But did you know that strength training (think lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises like push-ups and lunges) can improve the health of your ticker, too?  When you lift weights at a moderate intensity, you get your heart rate up. This means that you’re working both your muscular system and your cardiovascular system. And when you make your muscles stronger, you make your body stronger, which helps everything. So definitely do some resistance training a few times a week.

4. Use exercise to de-stress

Stress plays a critical role in heart health, and exercise is great at kicking stress to the curb. Learn to see exercise not as something that you have to do, but instead as something you want to do because it makes you feel good. While most workouts will pump up your feel-good endorphins, workouts like yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi are especially good for de-stressing and improving the mind-body connection. Try ’em!

5. Support your efforts with a healthy diet

Working out – as awesome as it is – is only part of the heart-health equation. Eating a nutritious diet that’s rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats is key to overall health, along with helping to give you the energy you need to power through those workouts and your everyday life.

The original article can be found here. Jennipher Walters is the co-founder of FitBottomedGirls and has several fitness credentials under her belt: She is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, and advanced health and fitness specialist, and an AFAA-certified group exercise instructor. She has also written for numerous online publications including Shape magazine, Yahoo! Shine, SparkPeople, and Diets in Review.