Sixty-one-year-old Janet C., of New City, NY, began to take her health seriously after learning she’d survived two minor heart attacks. It all started 18 months ago, during a day in which she experienced a bout of “indigestion” later followed by another that was much more severe.
By the following morning, what she thought was indigestion had turned into pain and spread to her jaw. Janet got scared, popped an aspirin and sought medical help. Later that day, doctors told her that taking that aspirin was a smart move. Aspirin, which keeps blood circulating, likely kept her heart attacks minor and helped save her life.
Janet suffered both heart attacks because the main arteries feeding her heart had nearly closed up, clogged with a fatty deposit called plaque, the result of atherosclerosis, a condition caused by high cholesterol levels in the blood. To open her arteries, surgeons implanted three small mesh tubes called stents—two in her right carotid artery—that allowed the blood to flow freely again.
“The surgeons told me that the damage to my arteries was extensive and the stents could fail,” Janet states. Within a few weeks, her atherosclerosis caused the arteries to close up again and the stents did fail. Surgeons then performed a triple coronary artery graft bypass (CAGB) to reroute her blood flow to bypass the blocked arteries and reach her heart.
Fortunately, the CAGB surgery worked. But Janet was left with the realization that she had heart disease, a permanent condition that would require life-altering strategies to be kept at bay. And she was up to the challenge.
“I decided to take this opportunity to change my life—and ran with it,” she states. “I gave up fast food, and now cook healthful meals filled with delicious fresh vegetables and grains.” And Janet exercises twice a week for 20 minutes on a recumbent bike. She is happy with her accomplishments.
“My total cholesterol is 140, down from 183 when I had the heart attacks,” she says. (Typically, a total cholesterol level of 200 or above is considered high.) What is the result of her efforts? “All the tests they’ve done since my surgery look good,” she says. And in many ways, Janet says, she’s healthier now than she’s ever been.