Heart Attack and Cardiac Recovery Series

heart cloudsAs a survivor of both a cardiac arrest and heart attack, people often ask me “how are you feeling…you doing ok?” For several years, I usually just responded with “fine, doing great”. However, that question always reminded me that I was not doing great.

Even after getting a second chance at life, I hadn’t made many changes in my life to ensure I would enjoy this rare opportunity. The problem was, healthy living didn’t come naturally to me and I had no idea where to start. In fact, I was heading in the opposite direction.  Sound familiar?

After much trial and error, I have developed an approach to improving my overall health and it finally seems to be working.  I will share my approach in a four-part series I call “Zen and the Art of Cardiac Recovery”. The series outlines the steps I am taking to simplify my life, exercise, eat right, and reduce stress.

Lost, Broken Down, and Out of Gas

I didn’t start out with a plan. As with most things I do in life, I knew the end goal (improved cardiac health in this case) but I had no idea how to get there. Imagine if someone asked you to go on a road trip. Most people would plan a route and gas up the car before leaving. Not me, I would jump in the car and start driving in a general direction with the hope of getting there.

Sure, I would have an adventure in front of me and probably experience some pretty cool things along the way. I would also end up lost, broken down, and out of gas. Even if I got there, I would be a mess upon arrival. While this approach can be fun, it is also exhausting and many times results in failure….or a heart attack!

So knowing that, you may ask “why is this guy writing about a cardiac health plan?” Well, I’m not quite the irresponsible manchild I was at 41 when my cardiac event occurred. I finally realized the need to take things into my own hands, and coincidentally, a plan developed.

What I am about to outline is not easy. Changing the way you think and live while balancing family, work (notice how I put that second), and life can seem daunting, especially if you are in the early stages of your cardiac recovery. Or, maybe like me, you were just bound by the pleasure of your vices. For years, I rationalized my bad habits and postponed good habits:

  • I will quit smoking when I am 20…30…40.
  • I will start exercising when I quit smoking.
  • I will start eating healthy when I start exercising.
  • I will get healthy when my first child is born.
  • I will get healthy when my second child is born.

I knew this was ridiculous behavior, especially with my genetic history. Yet, I continued to do nothing to change. Whether you are trying to prevent your first heart attack, or you are recovering from you third, the first step is easy: Make the decision to change and then commit.

Roadside Assistance

The Zen and the Art of Cardiac Recovery series is based upon my own experience in changing the way I think and committing to a healthier life. Very little of this happened in the first four years after my event. I guess it took me a little while to figure out I had a role in determining the success and longevity of my recovery. Here is my basic plan and the topics of this upcoming series:

  • Simplify your life – Clear the distractions and focus on what is important.
  • Stop eating crap – Experiment with healthy eating.
  • Get off your ass – Start moving, slowly at first, but start moving.
  • Relax – Personally, I find this one the hardest.

You may be in the early stages of your cardiac recovery and find all of this a bit overwhelming. Or like me, you could be several years into your recovery and looking for way to shed your manchild ways. Either way, it is important to take the first step. You may want to just pick one area of focus, start slowly, and build towards a healthy lifestyle.

Keep in mind I am a cardiac patient, not a doctor. Should you decide to start make significant changes to your diet or exercise regime, talk to your doctor first. I do so, but only because my wife makes me do it.

Next up: Simplifying your Life

The full series of Zen and the Art of Cardiac Recovery Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4

Photo credit: aivas14 / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Welcome to HeartGeek!

From Dead to Geek

Hello, my name is Paul Maher and this is HeartGeek.  Although my dorky picture below might communicate otherwise, I will be turning seven years old this July.

Let me explain.  In July of 2007 I suffered a cardiac arrest at my home.  I was dead on the floor and 50 shades of blue when my wife found me and ultimately saved my life.  In addition to the cardiac arrest, I had a heart attack (which probably triggered the cardiac arrest) and was just a complete vascular mess.

Today, for a variety of non-cardiac reasons, I am still part mess.  But I am also healthier than I have ever been in my life.  I am happily married, have two awesome kids, a great job, and a very active lifestyle.

Over the past several years, I have developed a passion for improving my heart health and general fitness through a combination of exercise, diet, and a few technical gadgets to satisfy my inner geek.  Put it all together, and I am a HeartGeek!

Let’s Make Heart Disease Fun!

If you had a heart attack or dropped dead on the kitchen floor, would you imagine a fun recovery?  Of course not.  Heart disease is not fun, but managing it can be.  Heartgeek is a place where people who have experienced a cardiac arrest, heart attack, or have heart disease can find and share information on improving heart health.  To be fair though, I won’t turn away or discriminate against the healthy.

I went through my “event” at the fairly young age of 41.  As a result, I didn’t find a lot of information about cardiac recovery that was targeted at my age group.  Most of the data I found out there was targeted to the retired community.  Sure, I could put on my white reeboks, black socks, wrap around shades and go for a nice leisurely walk at the mall.  But I knew that wouldn’t sustain me for long.  I began to research exercise programs, diets, lifestyle changes, and even technologies that could improve my health and hold my interest!

The HeartGeek Promise to You

At HeartGeek, I will be sharing my experiences with you in the hope that I can help you enjoy a healthy life – even with heart disease.  Of course, I am not a doctor and I am not offering any medical advice.  Always consult with your physician before trying anything you read about here.  My intent is to keep you interested  in heart health by offering:

  • The best, up-to-date information related to heart health – I will stay on top of developments in cardiac treatment and bring that information to you.

  • Exercise and diet tips, backed up by experts and my own experiments and progress.

  • Informative reviews of technologies and tools to monitor and improve heart health.  This is the fun part!

  • A community of heartgeeks to help and support each other in getting healthier and enjoying life.

Please Participate in HeartGeek

As with most blogs out there, comments are vital to keeping heartgeek interactive, interesting, and useful.  I welcome your comments and questions and encourage you to participate within the site.

The intent here is to help one another recover, learn, evolve, improve our heart health and have fun.  You can contact me via email using the contact form or follow me on TwitterFacebook or Google.