More than a million Americans suffer heart attacks every year.
Surviving is one thing. Recovering means making a few changes.
Just ask Pat Hamel. She says she was woken from a sound sleep seven weeks ago by what she thought was indigestion. Turns out, she was having a heart attack. She says she had a family history of heart disease, and, as a nurse, knew she had some unhealthy habits, but the medical scare is what prompted her to make changes.
Classes at the Cotton-O'Neil Heart Center are helping. Nurse Carol Frazee says the goal is to teach people the risk factors they have control over so they can take charge and make the changes they're able. Frazee says you can't control risk factors like family history and age, but four you can do something about are smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. If you smoke, you can lower your risk by quitting. The others involve changing your eating and exercise habits.
Frazee says people are taught about portion control and making healthy foods at home. They are also taught a tip about grocery shopping - stick to the perimeter of the store - the center aisles have a lot of processed foods, high in sodium and fat.
As for exercise, Frazee says it will help all the other risk factors. She says it lowers blood pressure, lowers cholesterol and helps with stress. She says heart attack patients shouldn't be afraid of exercise - just remember getting started is like the tortoise and the hare - slow and steady wins the race. Frazee says it's important they listen to their body. Since many are on medications that will suppress their heart rate, they should instead pay attention to their breathing and be sure they can still comfortably carry on a conversation. As they begin to exercise for longer periods of time, Frazee says,they'll be able to increase intensity.
Pat's already making changes. She says she's cut out salt and is more careful about fried foods, like french fries. She says she's more aware than ever that a healthy lifestyle is about living.