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."
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
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."
Getting the care you need
After 4 bypass surgeries
and 30 angioplasties, Alan has lots of tips about how to work with doctors. He
and Cloris track every aspect of his medical care. They keep a printed sheet in
the car and bring a copy to every doctor visit. The sheet contains a list of
every procedure performed and when, medicines he has taken, names of doctors,
and drug allergies.
If you plan to have bypass surgery, ask for
the most experienced surgeon, Alan advises. He also tells people to make the
most of their office visits and ask a lot of questions.
a list of questions to every doctor visit," Cloris says. "You can't always
remember everything you want to know."
Coping with change after a heart attack
wasn't easy after the heart attack. Unable to return to work, Alan sank into
depression. Cloris, up until then a full-time homemaker, found a job to support
the family, which included two young children.
"That was the most
difficult adjustment for Alan," Cloris says. "All of a sudden I was thrown into
the workforce, and we didn't have any choice."
it was tough," Alan says. "But we got used to it. And we kept going."
Working with a counselor or chaplain can be a huge help for people with
heart problems and their families. What is often overlooked in cardiac care is
the impact a major heart event can have on the person's family and loved ones.