Meet Nick: “The shadow of heart disease was always there”

Four grandparents with cardiovascular disease; three who’d suffered at least two heart attacks; a father who had his first heart attack at just 48: it had always been a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’. Yet for a long time I hoped that ‘when’ would be a very long way off.

After all, all through my 20s I exercised three times a week, ran marathons, ate a balanced diet, and when I was diagnosed with high cholesterol in 1996, I started taking statins and – even with occasional lapses where I forgot to update my new prescription – assumed this would keep everything under control.

A year ago there were some glaringly obvious warning signs this was no longer the case – the fact I got out of breath walking up stairs and felt tired walking to work. But my lifestyle was still healthy – I was still only 50 – so I still shrugged it off and continued to hope I could outrun the shadow of cardiovascular disease a little bit longer.

I couldn’t though.

Last September on holiday in Tenerife, I planned to do ‘a quick 30 lengths’ of the hotel pool – but I didn’t even have the breath to do one.

Back home, after initially researching online and deciding it was ‘probably just gastro-related’ I did finally see the GP. I’d recently moved to a new area so they had no record of my or my family’s history, but I explained (like I’d end up having to explain to every new health practitioner I saw) and they referred me straight to a cardiologist.

I’ll never forget what I saw on that cardiogram screen: one completely blocked artery and only two of my heart’s three ‘cylinders’ still functioning. Or the words of the specialist: ‘It’s angina. You have heart disease. And you always will.’

They said they could reverse some damage by inserting a stent then putting me on five medicines a day (more statins, aspirin, pills to control blood pressure and prevent stent rejection, and beta blockers), but essentially I would never be free from it.

It was a huge wake-up call – obviously physically, but especially emotionally. The care I received was very transactional, being well looked after in a practical sense, but with no real mental support. I think women are better at proactively seeking out a support group and finding a community of other CVD sufferers to talk to. But as a stereotypical man, left unprompted, I simply tried to cope with it on my own.

A year later I am feeling better but I’ve still not fully come to terms with what’s happened. Facing your own mortality is not easy, and I wonder if that’s part of the problem with healthcare in general: Compliance. Motivation. Accepting that your health can be fallible and you have to take care of yourself.

Because even though I was living healthily in many ways, there were things that slipped up: occasionally forgetting to take my statins, not seeing the doctor as often as I should, not tracking my cholesterol. And even now, I’ve started using a fitness tracker but to be honest – beyond initially monitoring how much exercise I do in my daily routine – I haven’t really engaged with it, and certainly haven’t proactively shared any of the data with my doctor.

I hope in the future this will change. How? Well of course, part of the impetus needs to come from the patient, but a big part needs to come from both the healthcare system and the tech industry. If for example my fitness tracker gave an alert if my heart-rate went too high, rather than relying on me to check it. Or if my prescription of statins was automatically updated, any check-up appointments automatically scheduled. It’s not about shifting responsibility, it’s about providing better patient-doctor communication and a better support system so everyone can learn to take responsibility of their own health, and control of their own life.


FHI editorial team

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FHI editorial team

The editorial team of futurehealthindex.com is always on the look-out for great content pieces that discuss the future of health, selecting the most interesting health-related stories for you to read.


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(2 comments)

  • Christian (Chris) Crane

    CEO/Founder - Recruitech Intl. (since 1997) Pharma, Biotech & Device Staffing - Board/CEO/VP/Dir/Mgr

    December 9th 2016 17:40

    Hello,

    I have worked within the Cardiology markets for years and have interacted with literally hundreds if not thousands of excellent Cardiologists on both the Research and Clinical sides and I continue to see an unmet need and that is the effective integration of Medicines (which may be necessary) with the "natural" or "unconventional" approach.

    Even the President of the Cleveland Clinic (one of the best in Heart) fully believes that "dramatic" diet changes, exercise, stress reduction and other treatments should always be included in a wholistic approach.

    For example, both a Mediterranean and Dean Ornish like "plant based" diet has been proven without question to have a positive, if not full reversal, effect on the arteries.

    A simple sugar, for example, Cyclodextrin, is not "natural," but is in clinical studies that so far appear to show that it may "dissolve" plaque that causes Heart Disease.

    However, to be sure, "all" avenues should be explored to gain the most positive result. PCI with "Coated" Stents, Statins, PCSK9 Inhibitors and everything out there.

    The real key is immediate Quality of Life with an eye on a possible cure.

    Good Health All!

    https://www.facebook.com/cleanartery/

  • Susan Christie

    Professional Health & Exercise Coach, Specialising in food nutrition & diet planning.

    November 30th 2016 17:42

    Hello - Yes, I agree everyone can and should take responsibility of their own health through Learning about what's truth, evidence and gain insights - if it has been successful previously, or not.?There's so much misinformation out there - unfortunately Doctors are not going to tell you - HOW to get well or HOW to be healthier as - you are in control of your own body type; which is unique to you! A good Doctor can be helpful, but many are unaware of how to treat illness and prevent disease - by natural methods as they are manipulated (by big bucks£££) from the big Pharmaceutical companies to sell expensive drugs which can be addictive, in lots of cases show harmful and unpleasant side effects; and even worse many drugs are not properly tested and do not provide any benefits to heal the root cause of the illness; what we do know though from evidence is they actually 'shorten lives'. In fact, we rarely get to know about the many fantastic alternatives which work much better and are a darn sight cheaper. But that's another sad story as Big Pharma, try to patent (for profit - natural substances) which should be readily available for everyone!! When we become unhealthy from disease and illness, the body has become clogged with so much crap it is in Toxic overload' ), there are many researched evidence and success stories to now confirm that it is because the body is lacking in specific nutrients and out of balance. Today's convenience diets and fads are literally 'clogging up our digestive' and body systems, making us sick! You may be interested to look up - William Davis, MD - he's a preventative Cardiologist who's clinical Research has transformed people's lives - and allows him to advocate the REVERSAL , and not just prevention, of heart disease. He presents a compelling argument for eliminating wheat products from the diet entirely and his book 'wheat belly' is illuminating as it exposes the truth about modern day wheat and helps us to take a positive course of action to regain health and lose unwanted pounds for good. I am grateful I came across this - very important research and his contribution to better health. Thank you.


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