For almost half of their 54 years of marriage, Paul and Juanita Gagne have battled against his heart disease.
Twenty-five years ago, Paul Gagne, 77, was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a disease that weakens the heart muscle. Last year, he received a type of mechanical heart support called a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, to assist with his heart condition.
You can feel your heart thudding away every time you put your hand to your chest, but do you have any idea what’s really going on in there or what keeps your heart ticking as it should? WebMD the Magazine asked Richard Krasuski, MD, director of Adult Congenital Heart Disease Services and a staff cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, to help explain some amazing and little-known facts about the human heart.
As his primary caregiver, his wife Juanita, 75, performs a daily sterile dressing change where the LVAD line comes out from his abdomen. She does most of the cooking to follow a low-salt and low-fat diet, reminds him to take his medications, and goes to doctor’s appointments with him.
“I’m just happy to do it and that I still have him. You have to know in your mind that this is something you want to do, and set yourself to it,” says Juanita, a Grandview, Mo., resident.
Doctors play an important role in guiding patients and caregivers on how to manage heart disease. WebMD spoke with two cardiologists about tips and advice they offer to caregivers on how to take care of someone with heart problems.
Paul’s doctor, Tracy Stevens, MD, a cardiologist with Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart and Vascular Institute in Kansas City, Mo., recommends a general guideline of one protein and two colors -- fruits or vegetables -- for each meal. It keeps patients away from french fries, chips, and cheese, she says. Her other tips include:
Meet with a dietitian to design a customized plan that fits your particular heart condition.