Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib.
I’ve been to 4 funerals in the last 2 months. They were friends and husbands or wives of friends; all but 1 were age 75 or older. One was just under 60 years old and had cancer. The other 3 died from a variety of heart problems.
I wrote a book about my experiences with atrial fib that began when I was age 43, young to have that problem in 1980 when it wasn’t even known to the public as atrial fibrillation, just “an irregular heartbeat”. My memoir, IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib, chronicles every issue connected with my heart until I had a heart ablation at age 70 in 2007. The issues, 2 heart attacks, 3 pacemakers, a robotic heart bypass and almost 30 years of atrial fib are just the ones connected to the heart. I’ve also had a lifetime of thyroid problems, 2 hip replacements, gall bladder removal, irritable bowel syndrome, vertigo and carpal tunnel.
None are cured. They are all being managed by medications that I understand and approve of with pharmacologists and my doctors. I advocate to readers that they establish a relationship with their doctors, nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants and partner with them in care and progress. Get 2nd opinions when in doubt. Get to know and take good care of your own body. Know your meds, what they do, when to take them, how to take them (with food or without food) and their compatibility with each other and over-the-counter meds you take.
Heart attacks do irreparable damage to the heart and the heart muscle. I have reversed all damage done to my heart since my own 2 heart attacks in 2000, almost 19 years ago. When doctors told me this news, they suggested that the damage reversal, though rare, was due to exercise, diet, and attitude. Exercise is number 1.
I’m 81 years old. Lots has been said and written about exercise. Cleveland Clinic researchers studied 122,000 people for 13 years concluding that not exercising is worse than smoking.
Thirty-five years ago I started to get serious about exercise. Started walking…15 minutes, then 30 then 45 minutes then checking distance…a mile and increasing a little more each month. It wasn’t long before I got to 4 miles then 4 miles in an hour. I walked outside mostly. Then I bought a treadmill. I walked 4 miles 4 or 5 times a week for 15 years.
After retirement from my job, I started working out with a trainer to get upper body training too. By the time I turned 80 the trainer had me doing 100 pushups, planks, squats as well as weight training and cardio.
My 81 year old back requires that I change my routine for working out. I’m still exercising every day. More about that in a future blog.
Working out relieves stress, promotes a good attitude and gives you the strength to enter old age in good shape.