Beaver Dam’s Tina Swain has not been counting the days since she had a heart attack 15 years ago, but she made changes that are part of her life every day since then.
Heart attacks are the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, according to the American Heart Association.
February is American Heart Month. It was established by President Lyndon Johnson in February of 1964.
On Jan. 25, 2005, Swain went to see “The Phantom of the Opera” with some family. Swain was 55 years old at the time and felt chest pains that night, but didn’t know at the time she had a heart attack.
Living heart healthy
“To tell the truth, I try and focus on positive things in my life and avoid unnecessary bad juju,” Swain said. I like to be aware but not let things weigh heavy on my shoulders or heart.”
One factor that puts people at risk is the American lifestyle, in Swain’s view.
“Everything is fast and furious,” Swain said. “I have since retired and that changed things immensely. I also have started doing thing I enjoy, things that bring me satisfaction and reward. It brings me joy when I paint, entertain family and friends, crochet, can, play ukulele, be inclusive of others and get involved directing or acting on stage at Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre.”
One thing Swain said she has been focusing on is the Blue Zone principles. Marshfield Medical Center–Beaver Dam brought the program to Dodge County in April 2017. Through its Power 9 principles, Swain said she has attempted to make changes in her life.
“I try and focus on friendships, have a sense of purpose, keep moving, be more mindful, allow myself to relax and enjoy a glass of wine, eat more veggies, fruits and grains and less red meat,” Swain said. “We are eating more and more plant-based meals at our house. We are responsible for our own health and happiness.”
Trina Justman Reichert, Blue Zones Project Community Health Advocate, said Blue Zones has many heart-healthy recommendations.
“Blue Zones Project encourages regular, natural movement throughout your day for health and longevity,” Justman Reichert said. “We promote things like using a stand/sit desk if you have an office job, choosing the stairs over the elevator, parking farther away from your destination, and using walking for transportation as often as you can. People who avoid heart attacks move often throughout their day; moderate, consistent movement seems to play a huge role in avoiding chronic disease.”
Beaver Dam Fire Department EMS Director Paul Hartl said there are obvious signs that most men show when having a heart attack.
“Women present differently though,” Hartl said.
The most common signs for Hartl said that in a heart attack an artery is clogged which leaves portions of the heart without adequate oxygen.
Emergency medical personnel can assess which part of the heart is affected by using a cardiac monitor. Hartl said heart attacks have different levels from slower heart attacks where the artery is not completely clogged to STEMI, or a ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, where a coronary artery is completely blocked and a large part of the heart muscle is unable to receive blood.
Hartl said there are some signs no one should ignore like chest pain when they inhale that doesn’t go away over a period of time.
Cardiac arrest, a sudden, sometimes temporary, cessation of function of the heart, is when emergency life-saving procedures are needed. Hartl said people who get help before that point can avoid needing it.
“If you follow the warning signs, then you won’t end up in cardiac arrest,” Hartl said.
Hartl also urges people to call for help as soon as they can.
“Time is an issue with both heart attacks and strokes,” Hartl said.
At the hospital
“When patients present with symptoms consistent or suspicious for a ‘heart attack’ or myocardial infarction, many things are done in the emergency department,” said Dr. Angela Moreau, an emergency room physician at Divine Savior Hospital in Portage.
“The vital signs are taken (blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, blood oxygen level) by a nurse. The patient is placed on a cardiac monitor, an IV is usually started, an electrocardiogram is performed, a chest X-ray is performed, and labs are sent. The diagnosis is made by a combination of multiple sources: the story of the patient, labs, and the electrocardiogram.”
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The doctor will be there as well to ask questions about the patient’s health and history.
“A provider will speak with you, examine you and order the appropriate tests,” Moreau said. “The provider will go over the ﬁndings and discuss the plan of care with you.”
Anyone believing they are experiencing a heart attack should seek medical attention, Moreau said.
“We would be more than happy to assess you in the emergency department,” Moreau said. “These symptoms can include: chest pain, jaw pain, left shoulder pain, unexplained fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, difﬁculty breathing with activity, weakness, dizziness, upper abdominal pain or sweating.”
The symptoms can be vague and varied, Moreau said.
“Sometimes the symptoms are not classic of a heart attack and a person can experience just one but also can have a multitude of these symptoms,” Moreau said. “If a patient has concerning symptoms, a person should come to the emergency department in a timely manner driven either by a loved one or by ambulance. We will evaluate you and perform an assessment and do testing.”
Moreau said that from what she has seen in the emergency department of Divine Savior that men and women normally present chest pain as their chief complaint.
“However, women can present with more vague complaints or less classic complaints,” Moreau said. “For instance, a woman may come in complaining of heartburn or weakness.”
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, and women are just as likely as men to have a heart attack, according to the American Heart Association, and more women die within a year of having a heart attack than do men.
There are many steps a person can take to prevent heart disease including:
- Seeing your family doctor for annual exams.
- Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day ﬁve days a week.
- Eating a high ﬁber diet with a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
- Limiting eating animal fat, stress and alcohol.
- Quiting smoking.
Rehab after a heart attack
Nicole Faust, the cardiac rehab coordinator and exercise physiologist for SSM Health St. Clare Hospital–Baraboo said that according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nearly 800,000 people in the United States have heart attacks every year.
“About one in four of those people had already had a heart attack,” Faust said. “Cardiac rehab not only can help a person recover from a heart problem, but it can also prevent another heart problem in the future.”
At St. Clare there are two outpatient programs — one in Baraboo and the other in Wisconsin Dells. Soon after release from the hospital, its Cardiac Rehab Program is designed for people who have a variety of heart conditions.
“Our monitored program is for patients who just suffered from various heart conditions: heart attack, heart failure, bypass surgery, angioplasty, heart valve repair or replacement, LVAD, heart transplant, stable angina and cardiac arrest,” Faust said. “Program workouts are typically scheduled two to three times per week for about three to five months based on patient needs.”
The main goal of rehabilitation is to help people regain their strength, prevent their condition from getting worse and improve their quality of life, Faust said.
“We know that getting you back to your daily activities and working with you to reduce your risk for future cardiac problems is the best way to help you get better and live a healthy life,” Faust said. “The long-term benefits of cardiac rehab is what is important about starting cardiac rehab.”
Long-term benefits include controlling symptoms, shorter hospitalization, increased endurance and strength and to improve overall health and quality of life, Faust said.
“Cardiac rehab doesn’t change your past, but it can help you improve your heart’s future,” Faust said.
No matter what, Faust says the best change people can make is just to start moving.
“Everyone thinks that exercise takes too much time, but in all reality we are not saying you have to work out for an hour straight, you can split it up throughout the day to still achieve the aerobic benefit,” Faust said.
Swain said she does focus on her health but has spent a lot of time this last year designing the new home she and her family will be living in on Beaver Dam Lake. Although currently, she and her husband are renting a home in Orange Beach, Alabama, Swain said she will return with fitness goals in mind.
“When winter is over and the snowbirds migrate north, I will return and go back to the YMCA and join my pool friends,” Swain said. “I love the pool there and it is easier on my joints than the gym.”
Swain said her mother Rita Spangler, who was 95 when she died in 2015, may have been her best teacher about how to live life.
“She once told me she got up in the morning and told herself, ‘Rita, you can color your day whatever color you choose.’”
As her mother aged, Swain said that she also focused on remembering the tasks she had completed at the end of the day.
“There is so much beauty in the world,” Swain said. “Be engaged in life. Appreciate your gifts and count your blessings, not your problems. I now try extremely hard to avoid toxic people, toxic situations toxic air and food. We all need health of body, mind and heart. Make it happen.”
Follow Terri Pederson on Twitter @tlp53916 or contact her at 920-356-6760.