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Alan's Story: Coping With Change After a Heart Attack - Alan's story

Lessons learned about heart disease continued...

Alan no longer drinks alcohol or eats red meat. His daily meals include fruit and vegetables. Fish is often on the menu at home. The portions are a little smaller than what he'd like. Since his diagnosis of type 2 diabetes a few years ago, he's also had to limit sweets.

"That's a tough one," he says.

Making these changes hasn't prevented the need for major surgeries and other procedures. But they have helped Alan stay active and enjoy life. "Heart care isn't a one-time fix. Exercise, eating, and medical care all have to work together," he says.

Support groups make a difference

As a lifelong athlete, Alan didn't need much coaching to add more exercise to his daily routine. For more than 30 years, he's been an enthusiastic member of a local walking program for people with heart problems.

"It's so easy for cardiac patients to put weight on," Alan says. "And it's so hard to get it off. You need to walk every day or the weight comes right back."

Alan credits Cloris with giving him the help he needs to stay focused on taking care of his heart. But he also relies on a network of friends and support groups. The two belong to the cardiac support group at their local hospital. Alan is also a member of the Ticker Kickers—a group of people who have pacemakers or implantable cardiac defibrillators.

"I couldn't do any of it without my support groups," he says. "The camaraderie of being together and working out together makes such a big difference. We take care of each other."

When newcomers join, Alan and other longtime members of the group share what they know. "We ask them about what they're going through, what medicines they're taking. And we share information about how to get along. It's great for them and for us."

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