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WomanWise: Advice for Good Heart Health

In the summer 2014 issue of WakeMed’s Heart to Heart Magazine, four women shared stories about supporting a loved one through heart attack recovery, surviving heart disease and managing high blood pressure.

Supporting Role

Jennifer Petty’s husband Chris suffered a heart attack after complaining about indigestion for a few days, then experiencing excruciating pain. After receiving stents in one artery, Chris returned home, and Petty realized what he needed most was reassurance and support. Chris also participated in WakeMed’s Cardiac Rehab program, which offered supervised exercise sessions, educational lectures and cooking classes.

“Many patients find peace of mind in learning all they can about their condition as well as healthy habits. That’s where patient education and cardiac rehab come into play,” said Dr. Islam Othman, a cardiologist with WakeMed Physician Practices – Raleigh Cardiology

Empowering Recovery Through Cardiac Rehab

“[Cardiac Rehab] was empowering for Chris,” said Petty, who also changed her family’s diet to organic and significantly reduced the amount of fats, sugar and processed foods they were eating. She offered some additional advice to the family members of loved ones who experience a heart attack.

“Let them talk and really listen to what they’re saying,” said Petty. “…Work to keep the balance, knowing that family and health should come first. It is [also] important to ask questions about your loved one’s clinical well-being. … Knowledge about the process can reduce stress for the patient as well as the caregiver. Finally, encourage your loved one to fully embrace the Cardiac Rehab program from beginning to end.”

Advice from Survivors

Bev Stanion and Gerry Campbell-Days each experienced a heart attack and offered advice to other women about the importance of caring for yourself.

“Talk about your risk factors with your primary care physician. And if you don’t feel well, don’t try to rationalize it or brush off your symptoms,” said Stanion. “Women are in tune with their bodies, so it’s up to us to be proactive and take our health seriously. We owe it to ourselves and to the people who love us.”

Since experiencing a heart attack and a second heart catheterization, Campbell-Days said it is better to adopt healthy behaviors sooner rather than later. A 30-year smoker who quit in 2000, Campbell-Days knows that smoking contributed to her poor heart health.

“I encourage women to never start smoking, and if you do, quit now. Trust me when I say that the choice you make, good or bad, will eventually catch up with you.”

Campbell-Days also participates in the WakeMed Cardiac Rehab program, which is available at WakeMed Cary Hospital Outpatient Rehabilitation at the Kraft Family YMCA (919-350-1875) and Healthworks on the WakeMed Raleigh Campus (919-350-8602).  

Fighting the ‘Silent Killer’

Felecia Williams was diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure of 140/90 or higher) at age 29. Complications of hypertension include heart failure, renal disease, stroke and coronary artery disease. At first, Williams was frustrated and depressed, and she felt helpless over her condition. She also experienced a roller coaster of medication side effects and a change in physician care providers, which was unsettling.

But through it all, Williams has remained proactive about her health by finding the right physician partners to help her manage her condition and making lifestyle changes. Specifically, the DASH diet has worked well for Williams and her family.

Following the DASH Diet

DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is proven to help reduce high blood pressure. It includes whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables, low-fat milk; lean meats, poultry and fish, and a decrease in fats, oils, sweets and added sugars. Between 2,300 and 1,500 mg of sodium are recommended daily.

WakeMed cardiologists highly recommend the DASH diet and also advise to get your blood pressure checked regularly, get regular exercise, reduce stress and quit smoking.

Said Williams, “The inside of the body is much more important than the outside. … Health can be taken for granted until is it jeopardized. It’s a better scenario to be proactive than reactive.”