HomeAbout usHomecomingCaregivingRehabLifestyleEmotional MomentsSupport groupsReflectionsTransplantLinks

Lifestyle

Change in lifestyle is probably the most important part of cardiac recovery. Most cardiac patients have beaten some enormous odds to reach the point where they’ve been given a second chance at life. It’s too precious to waste by reverting to habits that, in so many cases, created the heart problem in the first place. And, compared with the alternative, adopting a new lifestyle isn’t really that bad.
"It was difficult at first accepting the fact I wasn’t as strong as I used to be. I used to do a lot of gardening and I had to accept the fact that I couldn’t lift as much as I once could, especially at first when the bones from the open heart surgery are knitting together."

"One of the biggest changes has to be in diet. And, really, it’s not that difficult. We talk about this a lot in the group; about the need to read labels in the supermarket, to understand the labels, so we’re eating as healthy a diet as possible. That means looking for fat content, especially the amounts of trans fat. And levels of sodium in prepared foods and canned soups which can wreak havoc with blood pressure. But it’s also reading the fine print on the labels; how much fat or sodium per serving. What is a serving portion? It can be very misleading."

"Eating out can be very tricky. After my surgery I found myself being very aware of my choices in restaurants. Fast food establishments were out, absolutely. Anywhere I ate I found out, as best I could, what kind of oils were used in the cooking. I cut out red meat and pork completely, the skin of chicken and turkey. The thing is, I’d had some fabulous meals in my life, which probably contributed to my blocked arteries, so it was no big deal to eat sensibly."

"There was not enough activity in my life so I increased my walking and I went to the YMCA on a more regular basis. But there’s no doubt there was a tremendous change in the foods that I ate – which probably caused the problem. I used to love french fries but I cut out anything with fat in it, anything deep fried. I’m a label reader now and have become very particular about what I buy. My husband and I enjoy a noodle dish but when I began reading labels on the package and discovered they were 40/50% salt, that’s very frightening."

"With food, it was no problem for me because I was already a diabetic and you know that whatever you eat as a diabetic is going to be good for your heart."

"No one told me there were any restrictions after I’d had a bypass. Things like lifting, pushing a lawn mower, commonsense things. Now, my neighbour, he had a valve replacement and a pacemaker put in and he got all screwed up by starting a chainsaw."

"I was told not to drive a car for six weeks - but they didn’t say it was because of the possibility of the airbag going off if I was in an accident. So I sat in the passenger seat until I joined the support group three weeks after my surgery. I went home from the meeting in the back seat."

"Changing your lifestyle is hard to do. Like exercising. If you’re the kind of person who has been sitting around, watching tv all day, being a couch-potato; that has to stop. If you don’t get out there and do your walking and get your exercise, after your doctor has approved what you plan to do, you’re going to take a lot longer to heal. And eating habits have to be looked at and changed if necessary. We are so conditioned by television advertising, peer pressure and habits, and the easy way to eat with prepared foods and fast foods. That has to change. For me, all those frozen, prepackaged foods? Gone. Burger and fries? Gone. Cheese? Gone. Bacon and eggs? Gone. The list goes on. People say, Well, just this once won’t hurt. Or, The occasional treat won’t hurt. The thing is, have too many of those "treats" and you’re thumbing your nose at all the medical profession has done for you – at great cost – and never mind what it must do to one’s arteries."

"In those first few months after the surgery it’s important not to overdo it. I’m back to cutting the grass, but not all at once. And I started bowling again. First, one game, then gradually upping it to three. And I have a rest during the day. I find that’s important. Just don’t try and run the 5 minute mile. All things in moderation."

"One of the gratifying things I’ve found since my surgery is how friends and relatives who invite me for a meal go out of their way to make sure the food they’ll be serving is okay for my new diet. It really is important to let people know about your restrictions."

"Now I find myself getting angry inside when I’m in a restaurant and I see someone at another table eating a huge burger with a large plate of french fries, or a large, thick steak. I want to go over and say, Don’t you know what you’re doing to yourself? And recently I saw a group of teenagers in Starbucks. They were all drinking some concoction that must have had 3 inches of whipped cream on the top. They’re the future heart attacks, maybe 40 years down the road."

"It’s been over 4 years now since my surgery and I’m feeling terrific and I look forward to my echo-cardiogram, doing the treadmill test, knowing that all my exercise is paying off. It’s like getting a report card. So, yes, all that effort to stay fit, knowing my blood pressure is under control, makes it really worthwhile – knowing that it’s keeping me alive."