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On a hot, sunny afternoon, Michael Cobb of Cooper City went to the driving range to hit a few balls.
Overweight by 75 or 80 pounds at the time, he started to feel some indigestion and was perspiring heavily, which he chalked up to the weather and not drinking enough water. That night, while lying in bed, Cobb’s heart rate on his Fitbit surged 40 points higher than normal, signaling something was very wrong.
He was concerned but when it fell back somewhat, he just went to sleep. “I shouldn’t have,” he says.
The next day, after work, Cobb, a systems analyst, dropped by the emergency room at Broward Health Medical Center.
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“Again, I shouldn’t have waited,” he said.
Broward Health administered a blood test and doctors said his cardiac enzymes were elevated. He was admitted to the hospital.
“The next day, they said a stent wouldn’t work for me and I needed a triple bypass. … I went in for a triple bypass and came out with a quadruple.”
That October day nearly two years ago was a real wake-up call for Cobb, who was 64.
“What led up to it was many years of not exercising and eating the wrong things and ignoring my doctor’s advice,” he says.
But this story takes a happy turn, thanks to his dedication and Broward Health’s cardiac program.
The bypass surgery, performed by Dr. Kenneth Herskowitz, Broward Health’s medical director of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, was successful. Shortly thereafter, Cobb enrolled in the hospital’s cardiac rehab program.
“That being the eye-opener that it was, I came to the understanding I had to make a lot of changes. As soon as I started eating better and went into the cardiac rehab program, my weight started going down.”
Over the course of about a year, Cobb lost 75 pounds, down from 250.
Equally as important, he has maintained his new weight.
The American Heart Association gauges cardiovascular health by tracking seven key health factors and behaviors that increase risks for heart disease and stroke. Called Life’s Simple 7, they are: no smoking, getting physical activity, eating healthy and controlling body weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.
While Cobb has never been a smoker, he admits that most of his other health factors were out of whack or being controlled with medication.
In the cardiac rehab program, he went through 36 sessions to help him get to a healthy lifestyle, said Ryan Crenshaw, a cardiac rehab therapist at Broward Health.
“It’s a rewarding job seeing people turn their lives around,” Crenshaw said. “We have people who come in who have never exercised — or think they don’t like to exercise — and then they change their complete attitude.”
Cobb followed Broward Health’s moderate exercise program, working out for about an hour three times a week hooked up to a heart monitor, Crenshaw said.
“He progressed. He met with a dietitian, and we monitored that. We also offered behavioral health consultations for any modifications he needed to make.”
“Sometimes you plateau after some initial weight loss, and this is a way to fine-tune the eating habits and lifestyle choices.”
Now, Cobb says, instead of eating two large meals a day he opts for three smaller, healthier meals starting typically with cereal for breakfast, a sandwich and fruit for lunch, and chicken or fish for dinner with lots of vegetables. Cobb has stopped eating red meat except for special occasions and avoids sugary desserts.
Cobb, now 65, continues to hit the hospital’s wellness center, going almost every day after work. Three days a week he does an hour of cardio; the other two days he does strength training and some cardio. When he can’t get to the wellness center, he goes to his city’s fitness center or takes a brisk walk around the neighborhood.
“I feel better than I’ve felt in years. I sleep better. I get out there to exercise, I don’t feel like I have any restrictions on me at all,” Cobb said.
His advice to others: Be diligent about exercising and eating healthy and don’t put them off.
“There are days when I’d just as soon not go exercise but I tell myself that I will feel better coming out of it than I do going in,” Cobb said.
If you notice signs that could be a heart problem, pay attention, he added.
And don’t ignore your doctor’s recommendations: “They are there to help.”
Added Crenshaw: “He was very motivated. That’s the kind of patient that is most rewarding. They want it.”
LIFE’S SIMPLE 7
Here are seven steps to reduce your risk of getting a heart attack or stroke:
1. Manage Blood Pressure. When your blood pressure stays within healthy ranges, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries and kidneys.
2. Control Cholesterol. High cholesterol contributes to plaque, which can clog arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke.
3 Reduce Blood Sugar. Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves.
4. Get Active. Daily physical activity increases your length and quality of life.
5. Eat Better. A healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease.
6. Lose Weight. When you shed unnecessary pounds, you reduce the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton.
7. Stop Smoking. Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Source: American Heart Association