I wrote last month about my medical emergency and how I used the experience to analyze my medical equipment management plan. This month, I would like to share a little more about my condition and what I learned to help warn my friends and readers what can happen if you aren’t managing your health.
To recap, on May 3 I had an angioplasty done with 4 stents inserted to unblock my right coronary artery. It caught me completely by surprise and has since turned my world on its head. At age 52, coronary artery disease wasn’t on my mind at all. I am a pretty active person, hiking every weekend, and hunting, kayaking and biking in between. My diet wasn’t terrible. I ate a lot of salads, but I like my beer and I love beef. I have started limiting beef and beer intake since my procedure. The week before I had symptoms (a weird pain under my sternum) I completed a Hyner Trail Challenge, which is a 16-mile run/hike through the woods without issue. So, having a heart problem was the farthest from my mind.
Since my procedure, and the ensuing medical visits and tests, I have learned a lot. It motivated me to write this article. When you are caught up in the daily activities of living life it is easy to not take care of yourself. Now, armed with my new found knowledge, I understand a little better that I could have been the largest contributor to my issue – high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is referred to as the silent killer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 75 million Americans have high blood pressure and only about half have their condition under control. I always knew my blood pressure wasn’t perfect, it fluctuates between normal and stage 1 hypertension depending on my diet and exercise at the time. I didn’t want to have to take medicine for it so I made sure that before my doctor visits I exercised a little extra. However, I was not really aware of all the things high blood pressure can affect. If I had known, I would have done things differently. I did not know that high blood pressure can cause damage to your brain, kidneys, eyes and heart. High blood pressure can cause enlarging of your heart and damage to your coronary arteries which causes plaque to form causing clogs. This is likely what happened to me.
As I am on the road to recovery and learning how to manage my blood pressure, I have had to make a few changes that are hard. The first one is managing sodium intake. This, by far, has been the hardest change because much of what you buy in the store has sodium added to it already. Even as I have tried to make some low-fat choices, labels show sodium levels above what is recommended to manage blood pressure.
The second is managing stress. I always felt I did okay managing stress but I need to learn to be better at it. Our jobs as HTM managers can be very stressful. It is easy to internalize the issues of the day. The complexity and challenges we face can take a toll on your physical well-being without us even knowing. Solving these complex issues is what makes the job so enjoyable for me, so I am getting some coaching on how to manage stress more effectively. Finally, limiting alcohol intake has been another hard choice as I really enjoy a good craft beer, and typically enjoy more than a couple at a time.
As I think about all my friends and colleagues that are my age, I worry that some of them could be at risk. Many of us don’t like to go to the doctor and thusly do not have our health well managed. I think my situation puts an exclamation point on getting annual checkups and listening to your doctor. It is easy to think things won’t happen to you, until they do. I felt like I could out exercise my issues but it turned out that I can’t.
The results of the procedure have been good. I feel a lot better. I was starting to slow down the past year or so and just attributed it to getting old, but now I feel more energized. I am learning how to improve my diet and lower my risk for the future. I feel lucky that I am still around to share this and hopefully help someone else learn from my experience. The American Heart Association website has a lot of great information if you want to learn more about how to take care of your heart.
Jim Fedele, CBET, is the director of clinical engineering for Susquehanna Health Systems in Williamsport, Pa. He can be reached for questions and/or comments via email at email@example.com.
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