When hearts attack


Today’s run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

It was 8° outside when I was ready to run this morning. Between the extreme cold and roads that were coated with icy-snow, I had no choice but to use the treadmill. I have accepted that I’m no longer hardcore and I’m okay with that. My workout today was nothing special: A moderate start and a hard finish. But by the end, I was glad to have run for the first time since Tuesday.

After I finished my workout, I looked at my email and saw a note from my friend M. I was shocked to read that he’d suffered a heart attack the weekend before New Year’s. M is a runner and triathlete and the day before this attack he’d played two hours of full court basketball. I immediately thought of Dave, an occasional running partner, also fit, who had a heart attack during a race a couple of years ago.

Interestingly, I had introduced Dave to M at the Dirty Sock 10K that we all ran last August and we talked about Dave’s experience. Dave had recovered so well by then that he beat my time by almost seven minutes. M has quickly bounced back from his heart attack. Unbelievably, he is running again. In fact he’s planning to compete in this weekend’s Winter Run Series at Caumsett State Park.

It’s scary to think that dedicated runners like Dave and M would be candidates for a heart attack, but it’s also reassuring to see how quickly they were both able to recover. We tell ourselves that an active lifestyle will keep us healthy and I have no doubt that’s true. But other factors can tip the scales and these things sometimes happen. Even so, I firmly believe the reason why M and Dave came through their experiences so strongly is because of the conditioning they got from running.

20 thoughts on “When hearts attack

  1. Just in my short time as an RN I've seen a trend of my male cardiac patients getting younger and younger. I've taken care of several now that were younger than me. Full blown MI's that required open heart bypass surgeries. A great many of them have comorbidities and risk factors galore. But some of them simply don't. It's huge indication that we still don't fully understand why the coronary arteries clog. Genetics plays a role, and diet to be sure. I think we will see a revolution in dietary recommendations in the relatively near future. Things we were told were terrible for us will turn out to be essential. Things that we have been told are healthy alternatives will be recognized for the danger they are. But I digress.You nailed the head on the hit–quick recovery has everything to do with overall conditioning, and desire to get back to normal activity. Medical techniques are advancing too. Things have advanced to the point that we are able to send some MI patients home within 24 hours if they're able to treated in the cath lab instead of on the surgeon's table.I'll end with a saying around the Cardiac ICU–the five most dangerous words in the English language: \”Maybe It Will Go Away.\” Time is heart muscle and brain cells.


  2. My friend thought it was bad indigestion and then a gall bladder attack. That's what got him to the ER. I am thrilled that he recovered from a heart attack faster than I've bounced back from the flu in the past. I just hope it's not too much too soon.


  3. Anonymous

    Don't mean to be glib about near tragic experiences (and without presuming to know anything about the involved men), but this is a good reminder that exercise alone is not enough for middle-aged men. You have to eat well and keep your blood pressure and cholesterol low, without medication if possible. I've been trying to keep my cholesterol below 150 as there is a lot of evidence that by doing so, you render yourself virtually heart-attack proof. I just wish my BP was as good as my cholesterol, but it has improved with the running and concomitant weight loss.


  4. Anonymous

    I'm looking for a new PCP. Would you recommend yours, and if so, where is he located? I believe that men of a certain age should have a cardiologist as a PCP, and I've been trying to locate a good one near my home. Thanks.


  5. I don't think anything can guarantee safety from a heart attack, men or women, young or older. Running strengthens our heart muscles and conditions our cardiovascular systems. It isn't clear if high cholesterol adds measurable risk to an otherwise fit and healthy person. EKG's sonograms and stress tests are the only ways to see if there are blockages that signal potential attacks.


  6. Anonymous

    I'm in the Huntington area. My wife and I have been arguing about this — I'm not impressed by the credentials of the docs near us, and she thinks I'm crazy to be willing to drive to the Great Neck/Manhasset area for someone with better credentials and hospital affiliations. Do you mind of I ask who your PCP is?


  7. Anonymous

    Agreed.But no one in the Framingham Heart Study who kept their cholesterol below 150 has died from a heart attack. I thus like my odds better with a good lipid profile, irrespective of all the contradictory information out there these days. I'd like to go vegan, but I enjoy meat (and Ben & Jerry's) too much, and don't believe in such dogma. An occasional steak isn't going to kill me. Nor will a couple of scrambled eggs once a week after my Sunday morning long run. A steak and eggs everyday will.


  8. Anonymous

    \”It isn't clear if high cholesterol adds measurable risk to an otherwise fit and healthy person.\” I just wanted to add from what I've read in this regard, it seems that very low cholesterol (below 150) is always protective at every age, but that once you get past a certain age and into your 50s and 60s and beyond, there is little difference in health outcomes between people with normal and high levels.


  9. I won't debate that having lower cholesterol will take a away a risk variable. Weight, cholesterol, triglyceride levels, diet and even sleep quality are part of the mix. As Michael Pollan said, Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.\” Add to that an active lifestyle and regular physical exams and you've covered most of the bases.


  10. Glad both of your friends are thriving. I'd like to think their healthy, athletic base played a part in their speedy recoveries, too.I guess I shouldn't post my cholesterol level. People get blockage just hearing the number. On the bright side, my blood pressure is very low. After the birth of my son, my doctor and the nurses has to check and recheck it because it wasn't \”compatible with life\”. Turns out, I was alive.


  11. Anonymous

    I always confuse him with Mark Bitrman. Ive been trying to follow vegan before dinner, which really isn't hard, and forces you into some excellent habits. I only cheat with skim milk in coffee and post long run scrambled eggs on light whole grain English muffin. Dinners are generally healthy and frequently vegetarian, but not always. You have to enjoy life after all, and good food is quite enjoyable.


  12. I think everyone confuses them – both NY Times writers. My goal is to get 70+ percent of my protein from non-animal sources. I know some vegans who proselytize to an annoying degree. Semi-vegetarianism works better for me because it has far less limitations.


  13. I am glad to know that you were and are now alive. Otherwise I would be concerned that you are really a very fast zombie.I will say that since going on a statin a few years ago, my cholesterol level has remained within the ideal range. I agreed to go on it after it became clear that a low-fat balanced, diet and an active lifestyle weren't enough to make a noticeable difference.


  14. Anonymous

    Agreed 100%. And it's called being a flexitarian. Try to be as plant-based as possible, but be flexible enough about it to enjoy life and enjoys good food with family and friends.


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