Skip to content

    Heart Disease Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    WebMD the Magazine's My Story: Cardiac Recovery

    A reader's personal cardiac comeback story.
    By Larry Wagner
    WebMD Magazine - Feature
    Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

    I had no inkling I had heart disease until December 2005, when I had two minor episodes of mild angina (pain in the chest area). My primary care physician ran an electrocardiogram but saw nothing abnormal. I was an athletic, lean 53-year-old who ate nutritious foods. He decided I was just stressed and gave me the go-ahead to go to Nicaragua on vacation.

    But while there, the angina went from mild to severe. The pain would come and go, but on three separate occasions the pain was the most massive thing I could imagine. Every little motion made it worse. I was sweating and could not move. A local doctor gave me medication to bring my blood pressure down and stop the angina. But I couldn't fly home for two weeks because the changes in airplane cabin pressure could induce a heart attack.

    Recommended Related to Heart Disease

    Your Arterial Lifeline

    Atherosclerosis is dangerous because it's so stealthy. This process of narrowing and hardening of the arteries occurs over decades, usually without any symptoms. Heart attacks and strokes caused by atherosclerosis are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. But diseases caused by atherosclerosis also lead to chronic pain, kidney failure, blindness, and even impotence. It's time to shine some light on these hidden complications of atherosclerosis -- and to learn how to...

    Read the Your Arterial Lifeline article > >

    Major Artery Blockages

    When I got home, I went to the local emergency room. The staff took chest X-rays then immediately ordered an ambulance to take me to another hospital. Two of my arteries were 99% blocked, a third was 80% blocked, and I had other blockages further down my arteries. It seemed impossible -- three weeks earlier I had felt fine. But a secondary system of blood vessels had grown around my heart and was doing the work of the blocked arteries. I had triple bypass surgery the following day.

    Afterward, when my wife asked about my prognosis, the doctor responded with a stony silence. I knew then I had to be committed to my recovery. I work as a computer programmer and am quite methodical, so I set up a recovery program. Week by week I built up my strength, starting with walking to the kitchen, then walking down the block, and then using my treadmill, rowing machine, and [exercise bicycle]. I monitored my heart rate and wrote down everything I did and how it affected my heart and breath. I also researched journal articles on heart disease, nutrition, and exercise rehab.

    By spring 2009, I could play badminton for three hours without breaking. By 2010, I could play full-court basketball. I was the only one over the age of 20, and I was not run off the court.

    Today on WebMD

    x-ray of human heart
    A visual guide.
    atrial fibrillation
    Symptoms and causes.
     
    heart rate graph
    10 things to never do.
    heart rate
    Get the facts.
     
    empty football helmet
    Article
    red wine
    Video
     
    eating blueberries
    Article
    Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
    Slideshow
     
    Inside A Heart Attack
    SLIDESHOW
    Omega 3 Sources
    SLIDESHOW
     
    Salt Shockers
    SLIDESHOW
    lowering blood pressure
    SLIDESHOW