3 Habits of a Healthy Heart | Pastor Steven Furtick
3 Women Talk Heart Health and Share Their Personal Stories of Triumph
Eating a heart healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and managing stress are a few ways that you can prevent heart disease, or cardiovascular disease. These behaviors are also very important if you already have heart disease. About 1 in 3 women are living with some form of cardiovascular disease in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. The good news is that you can still live a happy, healthy life after a diagnosis.
Here, three women share their stories of triumph and offer tips for living well with heart disease.
Jen Hyde: Poet, Book Author, Teacher, and Wife
You’d never know from looking at Jen Hyde that she has heart disease. She was born with a congenital heart defect that required heart valve repair surgery. Although there was some research in the 1980s about children with her condition (tetralogy of Fallot), there wasn’t a lot of research on heart valve-related disease in adults. Hyde’s parents were warned that she may continue to be sick, but heart valve surgery was the best option doctors could offer at the time.
Years later in 2010, when Hyde was 25, she learned that she would need a heart valve replacement. “It was really scary because I was in graduate school and finishing up my first year,” says Hyde. “I had plans to work on my manuscript over the summer.”
The diagnosis was also a shock because Hyde had fallen out of regular care. She had not seen a cardiologist since being an undergraduate student in college. Eventually, she found a cardiologist in New York City.
Hyde’s two options for heart valve replacement were a mechanical valve or a bioprosthetic valve (also called tissue valves). Her surgeon explained the benefits, drawbacks, and health outcomes for each option. She decided to go with the bioprosthetic valve because it didn’t require her to be on a long-term blood thinner medication.
Hyde shared that she initially got most of her health information from her cardiologist. She later found the American Heart Association’s Patient Support Network to be very helpful. Through the network, she learned about new research, got lists of questions to ask her doctors, and found support from other patients.
“I actually feel very fortunate that I have to think about my health all the time. I’m more active. I think about what I put into my body. I make healthier choices,” says Hyde. “My physical stamina has improved a lot after my valve replacement surgery.”
This is all great news because Jen is expecting her first baby in April 2019. It will be a boy.
When asked what advice she’d give women who are afraid of going to the doctor, she offered three tips:
- Think of your doctor like a counselor or “professional best friend for your heart."
- Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.
- Ask lots of questions.
“My experience with heart disease inspires me to be an advocate for change and to make sure other women, men, and children have as much healthcare access as I do.”
You can learn more about Hyde’s story at Go Red for Women.
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Elizabeth Beard: Wife, Friend, Volunteer, and Women’s Health Advocate
Elizabeth Beard didn’t know she had heart disease at first. In 2012, at the age of 52, Beard had stopped smoking after 35 years of living with the habit. She started a walking program so she wouldn’t gain weight after quitting smoking. Around that time, she began experiencing tight calf muscles and numbness in her feet.
At first, she thought it was because she was overweight and out of shape. What she thought was a simple leg problem turned out to be something much more serious: peripheral artery disease, or PAD — a cardiovascular disease where plaque builds up in the small vessels and blocks blood flow to a person’s legs, feet, or arms. Despite having a family history of cardiovascular disease, she never made the connection between her own health risk factors and heart disease.
“I was first diagnosed by my primary care doctor, but wasn’t given much information about the condition at the time. Everything was so quick,” says Beard. “I went from getting a diagnosis to having bypass surgery in about two weeks.”
To educate herself, she started researching PAD on her own in medical journals.
It was very important that Beard and her healthcare team act fast. Her surgeon and cardiologist informed her that she was at great risk of death from stroke or heart attack. They also informed her that she could lose both legs if she did not get bypass surgery promptly.
Beard had her surgery on May 1, 2013. Her recovery was slow and painful at times. After the surgery, she had trouble walking to her mailbox because of severe blockages in her aorta and femoral arteries. At the time, there was no physical therapy offered for her type of bypass surgery like the cardiac rehab available for patients after a heart attack or open heart surgery. So she did her own rehab with her husband’s help.
The standard therapy for PAD is to walk as far as you can until the pain hits, and then try to go a little further. Beard has done this for almost five years now. She has gone from walking just a few feet to walking 3 to 5 miles a day.
It should be noted that since the time Beard was diagnosed with PAD, Medicare has now approved supervised exercise therapy, or SET, for patients with PAD. This is a huge step for the future care of PAD patients.
Although she would not wish a cardiovascular condition on anyone, Beard notes that her experience with PAD had a positive impact on how she lives her life. She exercises regularly and eats healthier — no more fried foods. She also takes her medication consistently, which she wasn’t doing before her diagnosis.
“You have to do your part,” says Beard. “Take your medication, keep your appointments, do the things that are recommended, and if you’re not doing the recommended things — be honest about that, too.”
Beard also notes that heart disease is really a “whole body disease.” For example, your mind and emotions play a role in how you feel. If you’re depressed or stressed out, your heart will be affected.
“Explore the root of the problem and then work on a heart-healthy lifestyle. In the end, this will help prevent heart disease.”
Learn more about Beard’s story on Go Red for Women.
Stephanie Lang: Physical Therapy Assistant, Mother, Wife, and Exercise Enthusiast
Stephanie was on an exercise journey long before learning that she had heart disease. She had lost 60 pounds and was feeling great in her late forties. One day while exercising at the gym, she felt dizzy, started vomiting, and eventually passed out. After agreeing to go the hospital (she resisted at first), she learned that she had spontaneous coronary artery dissection, which caused her to have a heart attack.
“In the beginning, it was very difficult. I had three stents and many things to learn about my diagnosis,” says Lang. She also went through cardiac rehabilitation. This involved going to daily individual sessions and attending a group session once a week.
“In the group sessions we talked about nutrition, dealing with emotions, and managing stress, because stress causes your blood pressure to go up.”
Today, Lang is thriving. She uses MyFitnessPal to track what she eats and wears a Fitbit every day to track her steps. She also exercises six days a week. When exercising at the gym, she wears a chest strap called MyZone to help monitor her heart rate. It’s very important that she stay in a safe heart rate zone.
Lang’s healthy habits also extend to her family. “The kids don’t always like it, but as a general rule there’s no soda in the house. We eat a lot of turkey, chicken, and vegetables.
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