Heart Healthy Living

Karen Sanders exercises to keep her heart healthy

Meet Karen Sanders, a CMH patient who is taking charge of her heart health. 

I come from a long line of "bad" hearts.  My father lost his father, a brother and a sister to heart attacks, but his first heart attack came at an earlier age than theirs. He was only 43 when he suffered a coronary thrombosis. Over the next 16 years he suffered several coronary infarctions. He was 59 when the last one took his life.

My twin brother had his first heart attack when we were only 38. His heart was so badly damaged, he was never really able to work again, and had to go on disability a few months later. He now lives with congestive heart failure. My sister had her first heart attack at age 62, followed by quadruple bi-pass surgery.  Her second heart attack took her life on her 65th birthday. My brother, sister and I grew up on a farm near Pleasant Hope.  We worked hard and ate heartily. There was one other thing the three of us inherited - obesity. We all struggled with our weight as adults.

Because I inherited the same genes as my siblings, my physician, Dr. Abdul Salam, of Bolivar, sent me for tests on my heart after my brother's first heart attack in 1981. I was working in Kansas City when my sister's first heart attack occurred in 2004.  My doctor sent me to a cardiac specialist at KU Med Center for the latest in heart testing. Both times the tests showed no signs of disease in my heart.  

I often wondered why I had been spared the heart problems of my siblings. My conclusion: the only real difference in our lifestyles is that I was always more active than they were. I played slow-pitch softball as an adult, I coached my daughters' summer softball teams at Pleasant Hope for 10 years, I was an avid tennis player, I liked to canoe in the summer, and I joined a gym for several years. I stayed pretty active until arthritis forced me to have double knee replacement surgery in 2009.  

I retired from Gill Studios, in Kansas City, and moved to Bolivar in 2011. One of my daughter's highly recommended her nurse practitioner, Marcy Powell, at Dallas County Family Medical Center, so I began seeing her that fall. Marcy immediately told me I needed to eat right, exercise and lose weight.  I'm presently reading the "South Beach Diet" book but, as usual, I've done better with the exercise than I have with Marcy's other two directives.  

Two of my daughters introduced me to the walking trail behind CMH, and I utilized it diligently for several months, until I began having knee and hip pain. It was discouraging to think that, at 69, I couldn't even walk for exercise.  Then I discovered the "river" at the YMCA pool, complete with a current to walk against. I began river walking the middle of October, which I now try to do four or five days a week. In the middle of November, I added a water aerobics class that meets three days a week. When I began river walking, I could barely walk for 20 minutes. I'm now up to an hour of walking, even after my water aerobics class.

I haven't missed the hectic pace of living in Kansas City, especially the road rage (theirs and mine) during rush hour. Life and traffic here suit me just fine. The only hectic part of my life now is trying to keep up with all my grandkids' and great-grandkids' ballgames at the YMCA, and at Halfway, Buffalo and Skyline schools. But that's the kind of hectic life I came back home to enjoy.

Quitting Smoking

Quitting smoking is hard, but it’s one of the biggest things you can do to improve your heart health. We talked with Mel, one of our employees who quit smoking in November of 2011. Mel was able to quit smoking on her first try, which is pretty impressive. Research shows that most people try to quit several times before they succeed. So don’t get discouraged if you’ve tried to quit and have started smoking again.

Meet Mel - our quit smoking starMel had been smoking for 15 years when she decided it was just time to quit. “I used the electronic cigarette that contains water vapor and nicotine to help me quit.” While e-cigarettes have not been approved by the FDA, some people have successfully quit smoking with their help. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting to use e-cigarettes. They can make recommendations and help you with a quit plan that will work for you.

Like most former smokers, Mel has noticed the benefits of not smoking, “I have more energy now that I don’t smoke. I also have more money. I was spending around $100 a month on cigarettes.” By quitting smoking, Mel is saving $1200 a year! You can use this tool to help you calculate how much cigarettes cost you. But be sure to remember that smoking costs you more than just a pack of cigarettes. The impact on your health costs you much more than the cost of cigarettes.

There are a lot of challenges you may face when trying to quit smoking. For Mel, it was trying not to eat as a substitute for smoking. There are many healthy substitutions that you can make for smoking, like a brisk walk, drinking lots of fluids or taking up hobbies that involve your hands, like knitting or woodworking.

If you’re trying to quit smoking, we want to congratulate you. Having the drive to quit and making the decision to quit is a big part of the process. There are resources available to help you, so talk to your doctor, join a smoking cessation class and come up with a quit plan that works for you.

If you’re the loved one of a person who is trying to quit smoking, here is a list of do’s and don’ts to help you along the way.

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