Life after a heart attack

BARRY’S BAY – “I didn’t even know I had one,” says Ed Quesnelle of his heart attack. “I just didn’t feel good.”

He’s remembering an incident in 2000 where he suffered a heart attack without even knowing it. He was kept in the hospital for three days following the attack, and doctors eventually decided he needed an angioplasty, a procedure that widens narrow or obstructed veins and arteries. Six months later, he had triple bypass surgery.

According to Quesnelle, that’s pretty common – the angioplasty often results in a triple bypass somewhere down the line. And it’s not an experience he’s keen to go through to again.

Heart health is what the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation wants the public thinking about this February. According to the foundation, heart disease and stroke take one life every seven minutes, and 90 per cent of Canadians have at least one risk factor. February is the month they’ve chosen to get people aware of this serious health issue.

Heart disease isn’t one single symptom or diagnosis, though: it’s more often a group of conditions affecting the structure and functions of the heart. Whether those conditions are acute coronary syndrome, angina, cardiac arrest, valve disorders or rheumatic heart disease, it’s all part of the larger diagnosis of heart disease.

The big thing is mitigating risk factors.

There are a number of risk factors you can’t control – as you get older, your chances of getting heart disease increase, or perhaps you have a family history and genetic predisposition to it, or maybe your ethnicity means you have a higher likelihood of high blood pressure. These things can’t be changed, and that’s why it’s important to monitor your health with the help of your doctor.

But there are factors you can control.

High blood pressure and cholesterol levels can be managed and even reduced. If you smoke, quit. If you’re diabetic, monitor your blood sugar to try and reach a healthy level. Being overweight can also increase your chances of heart disease, as can excessive alcohol consumption, a lack of physical activity, and of course stress.

Get your February 11, 2015 edition of The Valley Gazette to read the full story.