Heart Event #2, Check!

wp-image--810048212On Friday, November 10, I was having a blast at the Salt Palace with 2200 of my best stamping friends. The selfie above was taken right before the show started that morning. Oddly enough, in my presentation that day I talked about exchanging pieces of your heart with others to make life happier and better. 🙂

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Just hanging out with 3 awesome Kiwis

A few hours after that, I felt chest pain again. The pain came on more quickly and intensely than it did last December–and I was feeling it in my arms and hands again as well. Before long I was in an ambulance on my way to the hospital.

In the ambulance, the EKG was lighting up in the same 3 areas where I had my heart attack and now have 2 stents. But then…the pain just disappeared. When we got to the hospital, they took blood tests and lots of other tests. The troponin in my blood registered as slightly elevated so they kept me overnight.

Saturday morning they did a PET scan (which by-the-way was kind of awful). They could see the portion of my heart that was damaged last December (which is really small) but there was no new damage. My troponin levels were dropping so I left the hospital that afternoon.

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The question I keep getting asked is “How could this happen again so soon, and after all the changes you’ve made this year–you’ve been so good!” Believe me, one of the first things I said in the hospital was “I’d like a cheeseburger, milkshake, french fries, and throw in some tacos for good measure.” They just told me no–I needed to fast for upcoming procedures. 😦

But the partial answer to this question came on Saturday afternoon when a cardiologist told me he didn’t think my arteries are full of plaque but rather that I had a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD).

Well isn’t that interesting.

If you’d like to read more about SCAD:  Here’s some info from the Mayo Clinic.

The doc followed up with telling me they don’t know that much about SCAD, what causes it, etc., and that they would just treat me like a regular heart patient. He also added another pill that I have to take every day. But on the flip side, he cut two of my prescriptions in half–one of which is a statin drug to lower cholesterol–I’m guessing this decision had something to do with my cholesterol currently being a total of 82.

To be honest, the last month has been pretty rough. Physically, I’ve felt a little weak but now I’m pretty much back to normal. Emotionally, there’s a very different story. I’ve been ticked off, depressed, confused, exhausted, overwhelmed and rebellious with eating and exercise (I actually bought a giant bag of Cheetos! That’s as fake as a food can get–what even are Cheetos?)…fortunately, within the last week I think I’ve finally entered the acceptance phase, thank heavens.

I’ve been doing what I can to learn about SCAD online, and connecting with a few people who are in the same boat. The best moment was when I found a cardiologist in Salt Lake who leads a SCAD research group. I have an appointment with him on Thursday and I’m hopeful to get some answers…answers about if my arteries really are dissecting, how I treat this condition, whether or not I need to keep taking all these drugs, etc.

And so this crazy journey continues…♡

Inflammation

This might be the most important topic I will ever blog about. It is the reason I had a heart attack, and the reason for so many health problems today.

Imflammation

In January, I asked my cardiologist how it was possible for me to have a cholesterol blockage in my artery when my cholesterol is super low (Total=117, LDL=59, HDL=58).

He said, “You have inflammation in your arteries. If you don’t have inflammation in your arteries, the cholesterol runs right though. If you have inflammation, it gets trapped and builds up.

He said “You can compare it to rubbing your skin with a brillo pad, and just continually rubbing it. Your skin becomes raw and inflamed. That’s what’s happening to your arteries–they are in a constant inflamed state.”

So, I started researching inflammation, and then a few months later my dentist actually recommended “Inflammation Nation.” In the book, the author says half of Americans suffer from inflammation.

The cause:  Affluenza.

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We have rich, processed and refined foods too readily available. He explains inflammation from top to bottom and provides an eating plan to reverse it.

All kinds of things can cause inflammation:

  • sugar
  • fat
  • aspartame
  • stress
  • lack of sleep
  • dehydration
  • inactivity
  • food alergies

A few articles I have found interesting:

Wouldn’t that be crazy if so many of our health problems could be cured with a simple eating plan? ❤

Who is at Risk for Heart Disease?

Everyone I came in contact with during my heart attack seemed perplexed about why I was there. The doctor I talked about in my Dec. 20, 2016 post (the one that threw his hands in the air and walked out of the room) even called me as a follow-up. I was still in the hospital at that point. He said he had never called a patient after treating them, but when he got back to work 2 days later, he saw my blood test results and couldn’t believe it!!

Him: “I just saw your blood test…so, do you  have heart disease?”

Me: “Yes–I’m in the cardiac unit in Provo, got some stents yesterday.”

Him: “I just can’t believe it! I never ever would’ve thought you had heart disease, there was just no reason and I’ve never seen that happen, I just can’t believe it….I’m just totally speechless, wow!”

There was a quick mumbling of “good luck” and he hung up.

Why am I sharing this story? Because heart disease will get anyone. Doctors think if you don’t have high cholesterol and blood pressure, you’re fine. And lots of people think if you don’t have a family history, you have nothing to worry about.

  • My blood pressure:  100/70
  • Choloesterol: 117 (LDL 59, HDL 52)
  • Family history:  none

I’m learning that many things contribute to heart attacks:  blood pressure, genetics, stress, diet, sleep, cholesterol, exercise…its like the comprehensive test at the end of the semester: everything is important and we all have to take the test to pass the class! ❤

5 Fruits and Vegetables a Day

The last item I have left to discuss of the 4 Ways to Prevent a Heart Attack is eating 5 fruits and vegetables a day. If you watched the video, you heard the Doc say that these 4 things will lower your risk of a heart attack by 40%…which is a better improvement than anything else can make, including prescription drugs. However, the Doc also says that only 3% of Americans do these 4 things.

My first question was can I eat 4 fruits and 1 veggie a day? Yeah, I can, I can do whatever I want, including eating no plants. But if I’m wanting to really put healthy stuff into my body, I know I should eat more veggies than fruits–so I aim for 3 veggies and 2 fruits. I don’t add it up each day, but there were definitely days in the beginning that I counted how many I ate to make sure I was in range. Also, I looked into what would be considered a fruit and vegetable–but you might want to check on that if you’re interested (e.g. 1 medium sized fruit and 1 cup of leafy veggies).

Fortunately for me, I like salads–I pretty much have a salad every day for lunch. For dinner, I eat a salad or something else with lots of veggies. And I usually have a fruit for breakfast with my granola or oatmeal.

The hardest time of day is about 3pm…snack time! If I eat a healthy lunch, I always get hungry in the afternoon, and I always used to reach for cookies, chocolate, diet coke, pretzels, sometimes I’d wander around the office and see what kind of goodies I could find.

Now, I make sure I am armed with healthy options. I have an apple almost every day. And then I also take carrots, celery or cucumbers to work, with hummus or salsa. Peanut butter with celery is also delicious. I try to keep it simple, but have found I need something sweet and something savory on hand at work.

So that’s how I fit the 5 in each day.

I was surprised to learn that if I put the 5 fruits and veggies into my diet first, I really don’t need or want a lot of other food. And at the end of the day, I feel happy I’ve fueled my body with healthy stuff. ❤

Body Mass Index (BMI)

I feel nervous posting about BMI and weight–for several reasons. Weight is a sensitive topic for many, and for me it is painful and overwhelming. The way our society handles weight is really awful–and I worry that in some way this post will feed into that. But since a BMI of 25 is one of the 4 Ways to Prevent a Heart Attack, it is critical  for heart health. (deep breath) I’m going to be brave and post about it anyway.

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BMI is a formula that uses weight and height to estimate one’s overall percent of body fat. After I saw the 4 Ways video, a BMI of 25 became one of my goals. There are a few ways to calculate it–I need to keep it simple so I use online calculators like this one:  Mayo Clinic BMI Calculator

Some people are skeptical of the BMI calculation because it doesn’t differentiate between muscle and fat. I get that, but I think as a general rule, it provides a goal range to shoot for.

I am reading “Fix It!” by Chauncey Crandall (I’ll definitely be blogging about this book in the near future), and Dr. Crandall confirms that 25 BMI is good–actually he says below 25. But he also says most people should remain about what they weighed at graduation from high school or college.

And when it comes to heart health, weight is important because it is a representation of what kind of food I am fueling my body with. Just like I mentioned in my Cardiac Workout post, a lot of what we do to our bodies is bad–there are only a few things we can do that are positive. Exercising and healthy eating are two of the good things that can deposit money into our heart banks.

Before now, I spent a couple decades wanting to weigh less, and fluctuating quite a bit. Some people told me that my focus needed to be health instead of weight….but I was healthy (I thought) so it just wasn’t my focus.

The day of my heart attack, I weighed 183 pounds. I was fairly happy with my weight at the time, but I felt like I needed to reach 25 BMI, so I gave myself 2017 to make it happen.

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This past week I hit 159.6, and for a 5’7″ person, that’s 25 BMI on the dot. Coincidentally, 159 was what I weighed when I graduated high school in 1992.

So it turns out health can be an excellent motivator, because until now, a healthy weight seemed impossible.

A few people have asked me what do I do differently now–what did I do to lose weight? First of all, weight isn’t the focus anymore. My focus is trying to fuel my body with healthy stuff and not damage it with fake, fried or bad foods. But when I respond to this question, I usually say 2 main things:  eat more plants (less of everything else) and exercise more.

And so far, to my great surprise, it is working! ❤

Cardiac Workout

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When it comes to exercising, I AM A MACHINE! Literally, I am almost perfect following doctor’s orders.

Two weeks after my heart attack, my cardiologist told me my heart was strong, it was time to start testing it to see what it could do.

He then gave me strict instructions of how to workout:

  • 45 minutes a day
  • 5-6 days a week, for the rest of my life
  • 1 minute in every 5, I needed to be going full-out, thighs should be burning

So if I walk, then 1 min in every 5 I had to run full-out. I could swim, bike, walk, etc.

It was the dead of winter–so I went to the rec center and didn’t want to run with people all around me. But it really didn’t matter what I wanted anymore. So I ran…but only for 8 or so minutes, spread out. I kept telling myself not to think about it–just do it! Sometimes that minute of running is really tough and I’m watching the clock. Other times, I catch myself thinking woo I feel awesome!!!

I figure my heart doesn’t get a day off, so I don’t either–I exercise 7 days a week unless I’m unable to find the time–but I can almost always find the time at 6am. I’ve probably only missed 15 days in 2017. I also try not to think about the fact that I have to do it every day for the rest of my life–I just ask myself “Can I exercise today? Yes, I can. I’ll figure out tomorrow when it gets here but today I’ll exercise.”

Where do I find the motivation?? I have the ultimate motivation…I wish I knew how to give that to others. Maybe try to think of yourself as a future heart patient (harsh, but it could work, right?).

Or maybe this will help:  I figure almost everything we do for our bodies and hearts is negative (food, stress, soda, lack of sleep)…exercise is the ONE THING that is all positive. It’s our chance to put some money in the heart bank to spend later.

So I’m committed. I feel stronger. It gets easier and easier.

Burning thighs heal hearts. It doesn’t get any simpler than that! ❤

Granola

GranolaI have this amazing friend named Karen, who I’ve worked with for almost 13 years. She’s strong, kind, hard-working, and a blast to be around! She is also a cancer survivor and one of the most healthy people I know–I’m thankful to have her in my life.

For breakfast, I used to eat bagels & cream cheese or yogurt. Bagels are out now–I think I’ve had 2 all year. And most yogurts either have a lot of sugar, or taste gross.

Karen shared her granola recipe with me, and I’ve made it a few times now. I put 1/2 cup in a mug, add 1/2 a banana or blueberries to sweeten it up a bit, and eat it on my way to work. Many granola recipes have lots of sugar in them–check out this recipe and see how it is light on sweet stuff, and heavy on nuts and seeds.

Mix together:

  • 7 cups rolled grains (oats, wheat, barley, rye)
  • 1 c raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 c sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 c flax seeds
  • 1/4 c sesame seeds
  • 1/8 c chia seeds
  • 1 c sliced, raw almonds
  • 1 c shredded coconut

Mix in pan and cook on medium on stove until sugar is dissolved:

  • 3/4 c dark brown or raw sugar
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t vanilla

Instructions:

  1. Mix all together thoroughly and spread on two cookie sheets.
  2. Bake at 225 for about 70 minutes total–stir twice. (Karen’s notes say don’t bake at a higher temp but I did the last time I made it because I like it a little crispy:  325 for 35 min, switch pans in oven 1 time but don’t stir).
  3. Baking time is determined by how dry or moist you want your granola–baker longer for drier granola.
  4. Cool, then store in an airtight container.

December 20, 2016

sticky things

I asked my sister what she would want to read about on my new heart blog, and she said my experience. I hadn’t actually thought of writing about that yet, which is kind of funny I suppose. So here goes…the very short version of my heart attack.

On Tuesday, December 20, I was sitting at my desk at work, at about 6pm. Without warning, boom, chest pain. First in front, right behind my sternum, and within minutes in my back, opposite. It wasn’t actually painful, it felt like someone was pressing on either side of me with their fists.

I told my coworker Andrea, and she brought me an antacid because she had read recently that indigestion could easily be mistaken for heart attacks. After a few minutes, I was laying on the floor at work, trying to decide what to do, while 3 of my favorite coworkers stood over me. Was it an anxiety attack? A pulled muscle? Gallbladder? No one had any answers.

After probably 30 minutes, I got in the car and drove 30 minutes home. Both arms were heavy, my hands were tingly and my neck hurt too. I was tired…but that was nothing out of the ordinary for me. I drank a bottle of water on the way home, and that seemed to make me nauseous. By the time I got home I was on the verge of being sick, sweating and shaking. I collapsed on the couch.

For about 3 hours, I was laying there, googling things like “heart attack symptoms” and “what causes chest pain”. I don’t remember much during this time–I think I was in and out of sleep, but I wasn’t sleeping much because I was too uncomfortable. If I stayed very still, I was ok, but any sort of movement took great effort. Another thing to note is the chest pain was the same whether I was laying down, sitting, standing, walking…it was consistently there.

At 10:30, my mom came over, took one look at me and said “OK, get up, we’re going to the hospital!” I got a little upset, telling her I didn’t want to go pay hundreds of dollars or more, to be told I had an upset stomach.

I finally decided to go in because a) the pain was still there despite taking the antacid 4 hours ago, b) I figured I probably couldn’t sleep, and 3) I knew I couldn’t go to work tomorrow. I gave in.

There wasn’t 1 other person in the emergency room that night. They checked me in quickly, and after trying to put the wristband on my mom, they took us back to a bed. I had a normal EKG, and other normal tests. They gave me some other stuff to drink. Everything was normal. The only thing left was a blood test.

Well then I got mad–how could they not figure it out without a blood test. I guess I was being irrational, I’m not afraid of needles…I was just being stubborn. The doctor actually threw up his hands at one point and walked out of my room. OK so I was probably scared. I finally gave in to that too.

About 1:30am, a new doctor came into my room, woke me up, and informed me that my blood test results were back. She said there’s one particular test that looks for an enzyme in your heart–it’s called Troponin. The normal level is .01%. If it is any higher than that, it indicates some trauma to the heart in which some of the enzyme is released into the bloodstream. My Troponin level was 1.14. She said there’s an ambulance on the way, we’d like you to go to Provo to the Cardiac Unit.

I was stunned.

I asked her why I couldn’t just ride with my mom. She said “Because if you have a heart attack on your way to Provo, your mom won’t know what to do.” MustacheAmbulance

So off we went…it was actually kind of fun. The paramedics were awesome, and I’d never ridden in an ambulance before. I started texting my sisters at that point–and Hillary got in the car immediately–she picked up my phone charger too (priorities!).

troponinI don’t remember much else that happened for the next couple hours. Around 4am they took another blood test, and Hill and my mom headed home. But then the blood test came back and that’s when I sort of lost it. My Troponin was now 18.78. I asked the nurse what that meant, and she just said “It’s not good.” She said they would tell the doctor and she told me some other things that might happen next.

Around 6am I had an ultrasound–in which the tech said everything looked normal, even though he wasn’t supposed to tell me that. I should add that I had low blood pressure, low blood sugar, and low cholesterol. I also have no family history of heart disease.

I think it was around 7am that I went in for an Angiogram–they were intending to go in through my femoral artery, shoot some dye through each of my heart arteries, and look for a blockage. My cardiologist, Scott Bingham, told me he thought it was a 50/50 chance that there would even be a blockage.

When they found the blocked artery, they started cheering (yes, I was awake). I started to cry at that point–I felt a mix of emotions: relief that they found something, could fix it and I also overwhelmed that indeed I did have a heart problem. They put 2 stents in the same artery, and I was good to go.

The rest of the day, I just recovered and talked to my people–a lot of them–in person and some in other parts of the world. I felt a lot of love that day–I was never alone. We relaxed, watched some football, and I tried to write a few birthday cards (still had a couple hundred to go to finish up #imbringingbirthdaysback). I also remember feeling chest pain throughout the day.L, A & Jmom & hill

But on Thursday morning, I woke up, chest pain was gone! I checked out of the hospital and went to my parents house where I basically lived through New Year’s Day. Christmas was a blur, I didn’t give away one present and I didn’t eat any desserts. I felt emotional all the time–for months actually. Happy to be alive and overwhelmed with how to fix this problem.

I went back to work on January 3–I was bored at home–I needed my people! The first day I worked 5 hours, went home early and then slept 5 hours. Then slept all night too! And then life just continued on…only I was now a heart patient.

And that’s about it–my heart attack story. It’s definitely the short version–I should make a video to save you from having to read a post so long! 🙂 Maybe someday…but for now, I want to say THANK YOU  for reading all of that because I am very appreciative. ❤

Stronger

cropped-stronger1.jpgMy friend, Sean Douglass, had a heart attack a few months before me. It was a really weird thing to have in common but I am thankful I had someone to talk to from the beginning.

Sean is a multi-talented artist. He designed some t-shirts for the Cardiac Rehab program in Provo…I was the lucky recipient of one of these shirts.

The message is special–I can already feel that this is the case for me–I will be stronger!

Thank you Sean–I LOVE it! ❤


The heart is a muscle…when it’s torn, it grows back STRONGER!

 

 

4 Ways to Prevent a Heart Attack

The day I got out of the hospital, I laid on the couch and started googling stuff about heart attacks. I found this video and it shaped my behavior from that moment on.

  1. Don’t smoke
  2. BMI below 25
  3. 5 fruits and vegetables a day
  4. 150 minutes of exercise a week

Smoking was a free pass for me. . .so I immediately went to work fixing the other 3. I’ll post about them individually in the future because they are all really important. . .and I have a lot to say. ❤