Monday, August 17, 2009

All in the family - know your family heart history

The story of my friend's father has always made me think about the importance of knowing your heart history and understanding the impact it has on your overall health. He was willing to let me share his story with you all.

His mother died from congestive heart failure and her mother (his grandmother) died of a heart attack at age 46. It was early summer of 1989 when he experienced his first heart attack. Only two weeks later he went into full cardiac and pulmonary arrest, but was resuscitated at the emergency room. His family's heart history told him he was susceptible to heart disease.

According to the American Heart Association:
  • If your brother, father or grandfather had a heart attack before age 55, or your sister, mother or grandmother had one before age 65, you may be at risk, too.
  • Most people with a strong family history of heart disease and stroke have at least one other risk factor. Just as you can’t control your age, sex and race, you can’t control your family history. That’s why it’s even more important to treat and control any other risk factors you have.
A month later he went back to work and traveled to London and Paris that fall, but his cardiac arrythmia condition deteriorated over the next few years. He made numerous visits to the ER and finally had to have an automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator implanted on New Year's Eve 1990. After years on cardiac medication and trips to the emergency room he was placed on the heart transplant list. In August 1998 he became the last investigational recipient of the Novacor LVAS (an implanted electro-magnetic heart pump). In August 2001, he became the longest surviving recipient of the LVAS. By November the pump started to fail and on New Year's Eve he had to have parts replaced. On January 2, 2002, he received a new heart.

According to the American Heart Association:
  • There were 2,210 heart transplants performed in the United States in 2007 and 2,192 in 2006.
  • In the United States, 73.7 percent of heart transplant patients are male; 67.6 percent are white; 19.9 percent are ages 35–49 and 54.7 percent are age 50 or older.
  • As of May 30, 2008, the one-year survival rate was 87.5 percent for males and 85.5 percent for females; the three-year survival rate was about 78.8 percent for males and 76.0 percent for females. The five-year survival rate was 72.3 percent for males and 67.4 percent for females.
He has returned to work full time as a consultant and swims competitively. He first competed in the 2004 US Transplant Games as a member of Team Connecticut and placed fourth in one event. By 2006 he won the gold in the 200 meter freestyle setting the national record in my age category (60-69) and a Silver in the 400 meter freestyle. In 2008, he swam in five events and won three Bronzes (500 yard freestyle, 200 yard freestyle, and the 4X50 yard mixed freestyle relay). Next year he hopes to win a gold medal.

Thank you so much, Mr. Kenyon, for letting me share your story and for inspiring me to live a healthier life. I wish you many more years of health, happiness and gold medals!

As you know I am walking in the American Heart Association's 2009 Start! San Diego Heart Walk. The more you know about your family's health history, the more you can do to reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease. I ask you to help support this organization's mission by making a donation. Every dollar makes a difference. If you are unable to give please tell your family and friends about this important cause or participate in a Start! Heart Walk near you.

FUND RAISING UPDATE: I set my fund raising goal this year at $500. I am only $50 shy of reaching my goal. Help me shatter my goal by clicking here to donate.

TRAINING UPDATE: Even with my lungs recovering from bronchitis I was able to walk 3 miles on Monday, 2 miles on Tuesday and another 3 miles on Thursday. Who knows how many miles I walked at Legoland on Saturday. And, yesterday I swam 5 laps in the pool. This week I plan on walking 3 miles every day (I must burn off all of the pizza I ate this weekend). Help cheer me on!