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Mike's Story

Mike’s Story: Retirement Interrupted by Heart Attack

After retiring from his stressful Silicon Valley job, Mike felt calmer and more patient within a week. He was looking forward to no longer being on call 24/7, and to no longer dealing with the stress of work every day. A few months after retiring, Mike and his wife went out one afternoon to one of their favorite restaurants, and after a meal that Mike describes as “cheese, bacon and cream-laden,” which was finished off with a slice of pie, he spent the next five days dealing with what he thought was bad heartburn that wouldn’t go away. The over-the-counter medications he was taking for the heartburn weren’t working, so he eventually went to Urgent Care where they did an electrocardiogram (EKG) that revealed Mike might have a serious heart issue. He was then immediately sent to El Camino Health’s Mountain View emergency room in an ambulance.

There he met cardiologist Steve Lee, MD, who drew blood, gave Mike a nitroglycerin patch and had blood tests run to better understand what was happening with his heart. After his blood test results came back, they confirmed there was a blockage, and Mike then underwent an angioplasty procedure to place a stent in his heart.

“Once the stent was in place, it was like a light switch was flipped and the pain was gone,” said Mike. Three days later, he was discharged from the hospital and promptly went home to conduct an audit of the foods he had been eating, and to figure out how to prevent this from ever happening again. “It was stressful. Everything in our kitchen was up for grabs. I don’t smoke or drink, but I also wasn’t exercising regularly, and my diet included sugary fruit bars, soft drinks, ice cream and pizza. I didn’t see a doctor regularly and I knew my cholesterol had been a problem in the past, but I was no longer even monitoring it,” said Mike.

A few weeks later, Mike started going to the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at El Camino Health’s Mountain View campus and attended 19 sessions. His triglyceride level, which is a type of fat in the blood, was over 350 mg/dl when he started the program. A normal range is less than 150 mg/dl. Under the guidance of therapists, he started exercising regularly, monitored what he was eating and completely changed his diet for the better. Just a few months ago, Mike’s triglyceride level had dropped down to 47, an 87% decrease from the previous level.

“I embraced the changes and decided I am never going back to the way I was. Today, I feel healthy and in addition to losing more than 30 pounds, my back pain is gone, and I feel fantastic,” said Mike.

Mike also attended the heart-healthy nutrition classes offered as part of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, and his wife also went along with him. She reaped the benefits of adopting a new way of eating as well and shed 10 pounds in the past year.

His diet now consists of skinless chicken, lean ground beef, salmon and other types of fish, and he always has almonds on hand. The brownies, ice cream and candy are gone, and the fruit bars have been replaced with natural fruit mixed with yogurt and whole grain cereals. Mike learned to read labels and understands what a healthy fat is and what foods aren’t healthy.

He enjoys working out several times a week, records his progress and has made peace with the scale. “I stay in touch with the therapists at the Cardiac Rehab program, and I want to thank them for all they have done for me. They are always surprised when they see me because I look totally different. The care I got at El Camino in the emergency room and after my procedure was great. I always felt like I understood what was happening and now I know what I need to do to stay healthy,” said Mike.

Mike has revamped his lifestyle and has taken the right steps to keep his cholesterol under control and his heart healthy.