Heart Healthy Advice from a Man Who’s Been There

March 08, 2016

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By John Stahl

In July of 2012, I was feeling ill. In fact, I had not been feeling well for three days. Mostly, all I wanted to do was sleep. In the evening of the third day, I attended a 1950s sock hop at my apartment building – despite not feeling quite up to it. While twisting the night away to “Rock Around The Clock,” I suddenly collapsed.

Now, if you are reading this, perhaps you have heart issues yourself, or know someone who does. Or maybe not. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones – so far. You may think ‘It won’t happen to me.’ But my hope is that by telling my story, you understand how heart issues can affect anyone – and at any time. For me, my heart story began 12 years earlier before I collapsed on the dance floor, when one morning I awoke with a serious case of heartburn accompanied by a very rapid heartbeat.

I was experiencing ventricular tachycardia, also known as v-tach – a condition in which the heart begins beating uncontrollable – but did not realize I was having a heart attack. For nearly an entire day – 18 hours – I did nothing. Finally, when I could no longer deal with the agony and pain, I went to Denver Health. At any time I could have gone into cardiac arrest I was fortunate to survive. The medical personnel at Denver Health jumped into action and helped to save me. They implanted a defibrillator in my chest and saved my life. For more than a decade after that, everything was fine. Right up until I collapsed on the dance floor.

Due only to the assistance of two residents in my building who, thankfully for me, turned out to be nurses, am I able to write my story. Their quick action helped to bring me to until I could be transported to Denver Health, where once again the actions of their wonderful medical staff helped me survive. I have had a new defibrillator installed and as I write this, a few years after the incident, I am feeling better than I have in years.

I can't thank Denver Health enough for all they have done for me as a cardiology patient of theirs for 16 years now. They have been amazing. I can say that the doctors and nurses at both Denver Health’s cardiology department and catheterization lab are not only professional but also so very caring. They have been there for me every step of the way and have become a second family to me. They are the best.

Before closing, I'd like to impart to each of you some advice that I learned the hard way so that you hopefully have a good quality of life going forward. There are four areas that you need to focus on that I wish I had known before my heart issues almost cost me my life:

Listen To Your Body: Your body will most likely tell you when something is not right. Had I listened to my body when I was having heartburn and a rapid heartbeat in 2000 instead of waiting 18 hours to act I would not have been in danger of going into cardiac arrest. If I had listened to my body when I was exhausted three days in a row before having a heart attack things might have gone differently for me. To me this is the most important lesson: listen to your body when it's trying to tell you something is not right.

Talk To Your Doctor: Let your physician know exactly what you are feeling in detail. Communication with your doctor is key. Be specific on your symptoms; say too much instead of not enough. And communication of course is a two way street. Let your physician tell what course of action is recommended. If you are taking medications be sure to advise your doctor on what they are. I also strongly recommend that if you are prescribed a medication by your doctor and you don't feel right after you start the dosage let your doctor know.

Be Faithful To Your Medications: Be consistent in taking your medications at the same time each morning and the same time at night. Be sure to take your medications on their prescribed days.

Stay Active As Possible And Watch That Food Intake: Try and exercise often. Any exercise is good exercise. Start slow and then build up as you can. I try to walk one mile every day to get the old heart pumping. Eat healthy. That and exercise and you will feel energized like I have been.

Here's hoping that what I have had to say will help you have the quality of life I have had the past 16 years and that it leads you to have a positive attitude in dealing with your heart health.

Best of heart health to you all!