Me and My Heart: Lessons Learned as a Cardiac Patient

One year ago today I learned I had a blood clot in my coronary artery. You don’t go through a medical adventure like this unchanged, and as I reflected on the past 12 months I thought about what I’ve learned.

Know, trust and take care of your body.

I’ve always been pretty in tune with mine and it paid off – my cardiologist told me I was fortunate to have felt those early warning signs, and by catching the clot early I avoided a heart attack. I avoided a heart attack. So many people dismiss the symptoms of health problems, which can lead to more severe diagnoses and even death. Please, please, please – know what’s “normal” for your body, and don’t be afraid to get something that doesn’t feel right checked out.

There was a period of time when I was scared to exercise because I didn’t trust my heart could handle it. An extensive series of tests in January showed that my heart is in great condition (yes!) so my focus now is getting the rest of my body back in shape. I had forgotten how good it feels to be physically fit.

Educate yourself.

Understand heart attack and other health warning signs, even if you don’t fall into a high risk category. I have a keen interest in organizations that focus on women’s health, so I already knew about the Hope Heart Institute and the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women program, even though I didn’t consider myself part of their target audience. Their websites were the first place I went when I suspected there might be something wrong with my heart.

Don’t wait until you have a problem to find out what resources are available online or in your community.

Slow down.

I was treated with blood thinners in lieu of a stent, and was told to avoid physical exertion for a couple of months. People who know me know that slow does not come naturally to me – I always have personal projects, and family and volunteer commitments going on top of my day job.

Slowing down physically forced me to slow my brain down, too. I find myself more deliberate in my decision-making, more patient with others, and I’m trying really hard to make time for myself a priority.

Be grateful.

Major health issues are terrifying, and I experienced every emotion in the spectrum: from denial to anger and depression before finally accepting that this experience was indeed real. I’m very fortunate to have a husband who picks up the slack when I need to rest, two kids who love me dearly, an extended family that is always willing to help, and a wonderfully supportive group of friends.

I am truly blessed.

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