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1 out of 3 Americans have heart disease and/or have had a heart attack.  1 out of 31 Americans have/had breast cancer.

Breast cancer seems to have had a greater PR team, with the best communication about prevention and the options for cure.  And if you’ve been around someone going through chemotherapy, you know what it’s like.

Most people that I know have no idea what it’s like after a heart attack.  When I received well wishes the day I was released from the hospital it was as if I’d broken my arm or had my appendix taken out.  No one asked the big question “What’s next?” And that my friend, is really the most significant question of all.  What is next is overwhelming, frightening, confusing and full of contradictions.

For a large number of us, the American Heart Association hasn’t really addressed everything necessary to know about protecting the heart.  In my Facebook group for people under 55 who have survived a heart attack, quite a number of people were perplexed about how this happened.

Runners, yogi’s, non-smokers and people without genetic issues are suddenly thrown into a situation that they spent years living to avoid.  And the sense of looming death is serious kick in the ass.

After being released from the hospital medications line your counter.  Weird names and functions of each pill that may seem to overlap, drugs that were not needed before…like blood pressure meds…are suddenly called life saving.

Exhaustion.  Muscle fatigue.  Weird aches and stitches from the heart that never were felt before.   Reports from the hospital that are like reading a foreign language.

There’s a long path to continued survival and even more to thriving.  And each path is different, each doctor’s prescriptions are different, and each body is different.  Some of us don’t like the original cardiologist.  Those without insurance don’t have the resources to make changes, go to cardiac rehab which is actually very important.  My cardiologist never mentioned it.

PTSD is not uncommon.  Nightmares and weird dreams whether from medications or stress are typical.

Food.  Some people are satisfied with myths that they can regulate their health in ‘moderation’.  Really, I think the whole idea of moderation is crazy.  What is moderate to one person is living wild and free to another.  One heart attack survivor thought moderation was eating pizza 2-3 times a week and an occasional Big Mac.  Others of us wouldn’t touch meat, fast food, or prepared food BEFORE the heart attack!

I’m only into my 3rd month.  And it’s been tumultuous. I feel like I’m settling in better, though the reason for the heart attack is confusing.  There’s a mix of things that created the perfect environment in spite of my healthy life prior.  Healthy based on the American Heart Association.

1.  Whole foods, no fried foods, no meat

2.  Regular exercise with weights and cardio.

3.  Non Smoker.

What didn’t I know?

1.  The medications I’ve taken since surviving 9/11 are known to thicken artery walls.  Less room for cholesterol.

2.  I focused on what I DIDN’T eat, versus what I needed to add to my diet.

3.  I needed to learn the NEW information out there for healthy eating.  Education about superfoods, seeds, nuts etc was out there but I thought I knew most of what was important.

4.  Extreme levels of stress for over 12 years wore on my heart.

5.  Cholesterol doesn’t necessarily cause heart attacks.  I needed to learn more about my body to take charge of my health.

Know someone managing after a heart attack.  Send them flowers or a gift certificate to Whole Foods.  Be kind, be gentle, be giving.ruby heart