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Interview HA21

Age at interview: 69
Age at diagnosis: 67
Brief Outline: Heart attack June 2002, six days in hospital. Unstable angina on returning home. Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery, July 2002. Current medication' aspirin, atenolol, simvastatin
Background: Retired Project Director; Married, 2 children

More about me...

 

He found the British Heart Foundation's heart information booklets and the BHF website useful.

He found the British Heart Foundation's heart information booklets and the BHF website useful.

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Well a lot of the information I got was from the British Heart Foundation booklets. They produce eighteen booklets. They're clear, concise, well written and I strongly recommend them to anyone because when you have heart problems for the first time, you don't know anything about the subject really. 

You barely know that you've got a heart and its function. But these booklets in simplistic terms explain it to you and it's the only real source of information in the early stages and as I say, I strongly recommend it.

Did you look anywhere else?

I looked on the Internet as well. British Heart Foundation again, have got a superb web site. Lots of information; well written, well documented, easily accessible. So these were the two sources of information for me and of course the cardiac nurses are very good and everybody involved with cardiac problems, they've all been there, they're helpful. There's a lot of information out there for people. 

 

Describes his recovery from bypass surgery.

Describes his recovery from bypass surgery.

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Well to go through the sequence of things; I was prepared for the operation and I was given an injection, which put me to sleep. I wakened up in intensive care. I didn't know I'd had the operation. I was in good care in intensive care for about a day and superb nursing where I was and it all went very smoothly. 

I did not realise I'd had the operation and of course when the pain killers wear off a bit, then you do feel discomfort, of course you do, it's a big operation. But I was in good care and one just has to persevere with these things, get over them and do what you can. I found myself exercising after about two days of the operation; doing toe rolls, flexing and things like that. So you can start right from the beginning getting yourself fit again.

Again I had a physiotherapist, the nurses were good and I just felt confident enough to start getting better quickly. So, yes I did. The problem in the early stages are you are a bit sore in your chest. 

They take a vein out your leg for the bypass and you feel a bit discomfort, course you do. It's difficult to get a comfortable position in bed, but you know it's going to get better and you just find positions where you are comfortable and be patient and just go for it.

 

He felt a bit apprehensive but relatively relaxed before his bypass surgery, one month after his...

He felt a bit apprehensive but relatively relaxed before his bypass surgery, one month after his...

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Again I was relatively relaxed. Clearly one is a little bit apprehensive but I wasn't really because I knew it was for my own benefit, for my own good. I asked about the risk of these operations and so on and I was told that I was fit, healthy and if I had one, that was the time to have one. 

So I knew that there wasn't much risk of anything happening. I knew I was in a good hospital and I felt relatively relaxed.

 

Describes what he did to help him recover from bypass surgery.

Describes what he did to help him recover from bypass surgery.

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Well as I say, I drank a lot of water. I decided that I was going to drink water to get whatever was in my system out of my system and I was drinking ten glasses of water a day. So that's something. 

The one mistake I probably made on reflection is that I decided to cut back on the food intake in terms of the saturated fat and so on, dairy products early on. I shouldn't have done that. I should have waited about a month and that would have helped my body to recover quicker probably. 

But it did recover quickly and it wasn't long before I was walking the streets and walking a little bit further each day. Not taking my dog because he might pull on my chest. So walk, walk, walk. And walk a little bit further each day and if there's a slight hill, be careful. But walk, walk, walk. Drink water, eat the right foods, be patient, be confident and push on ahead.

Did you find that you stayed positive emotionally during that time?

Most of the time I was. There's times when you get a little bit down and you know, you wonder what's the future got for you because you're not sure, because it's the first time you've gone through this experience. So you, I wouldn't say apprehensive, but just wonder what lies ahead, of course you do. 

But having gone through this stage, there's nothing really to worry about. So yes, you have your days when things aren't quite so good; a little bit of pain here, a bit of pain there. But you just get on with it. You've got to get on with it, life's got to go on. 

 

Explains how he overcame problems with driving seven weeks after his bypass surgery.

Explains how he overcame problems with driving seven weeks after his bypass surgery.

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One of the frustrations I had was driving and let me just talk about that a little bit because they recommend you shouldn't drive for four weeks. In fact most people wait for six weeks as I did and if, six weeks even I found problems. I found problems at road junctions looking to the left, looking to the right, the pain on the chest. 

So there is a problem there and the other thing is safety belts because the safety belts going right across your chest when you've had an operation and it's still, it's sore. So I got round this by using a soft cushion, which reduced the pain a bit and by using clothes pegs on the safety belt because you've got to wear a safety belt. 

So that does help but yes, there was a problem and I'll never forget, seven weeks after the operation driving 120 miles and I was glad to get to the end of the journey. So there is a problem there but again, be patient, be confident, it's going to get better and it will get better. 

 

He doesn't lift heavy loads and if he feels tired, he rests for a while then carries on.

He doesn't lift heavy loads and if he feels tired, he rests for a while then carries on.

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Now if you were to ask me what I don't do now that I used to do, the answer is very little and the only thing I avoid doing now is lifting heavy loads. I still lift loads, I still do work, in fact, I've just finished painting the outside of my house. 

And I do a lot of work; I do gardening but I don't lift heavy loads and I'm a little bit careful putting anything above my head too high, so I avoid these. But I can't think of any other tips that would help. 

Well if we're talking about it, the one thing I would say to you is if you're doing something and you feel tired, go and have a rest. You don't have to finish it there and then. Don't put yourself under pressure, be patient and if you feel tired, stop, go and have a rest. 

 

He changed his diet to keep his cholesterol level low.

He changed his diet to keep his cholesterol level low.

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My cholesterol level was about 7.5. The accepted figure is 5 and my cholesterol is now 4 and that was achieved through looking carefully at what I was eating and 20mg of simvastatin every night. 

So cholesterol is the thing to bear in mind and everybody should look at their cholesterol, get it measured and take action. And the action is, look carefully on what you're eating. Cut down on the saturated fats, cut down your dairy products, your crisps, anything with salt. Look carefully at the packaging on any meals that you have and if it's high in saturated fat; don't take it.

So what sort of things, foods did you have to change specifically?

Well I decided to give up cheese because my little dog and I, every night used to have cheese [laughs]. He still has a little bit of cheese. I don't have cheese. I don't have crisps. I've given up coffee as well actually. Tea instead. Drink lots and lots of water. 

When I was in hospital recovering from my surgery, I drank a lot of water and I'm convinced it helps. I also looked up the effect of alcohol and came to the conclusion that red wine was one of the best alcoholic drinks you can have. I'm told it's to do with the skin of the grape, which has got beneficial by-products. 

So I decided if I want a glass of red wine, I'll have a glass of red wine. And if I go out to a function or party now, I won't refuse the food that's offered, I'll take it. So in moderation take what you want, but be a little bit careful of the saturated fat and salt.

 

Keep your cholesterol level low and exercise as much as you can.

Keep your cholesterol level low and exercise as much as you can.

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Even if you have not had heart problems can you please exercise because one of the things, there's two major factors I'm told, increase the risk of heart problems. One is your cholesterol level, as I say get it below 5 if you can, next time it'll be below four and then below three. 

But get your cholesterol level down and do take part in activity. Do take exercise. I mean, soon after I had my bypass I was walking four, five miles a day because I knew it was the right thing to do. And you've got to walk and not with a dog, slow walk. You've got to walk about four miles an hour, something like that. So walk plenty.

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