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Heart Smart

Story ID:438
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Manhattan KS USA
Year:2002
Person:Ken Kopp
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Heart Smart

Heart Smart

Heart Smart

By

Nancy Julien Kopp


My husband was an unlikely candidate for a heart attack. His health records showed low cholesterol, low blood pressure, and he was an easygoing soul. Despite these very good signs, Ken fell to his knees and clutched his chest while walking to the fourteenth hole on a golf course one winter day. Fast action by his golf partners proved to be a lifesaver. Ironically, they were on foot because they walked the course for good health. One of the men spied a twosome in a cart a few holes away, and he sprinted faster than he’d ever dreamed possible. He literally hi-jacked the cart and sent the driver on to the clubhouse to call an ambulance. Driving at top speed, he brought the cart to his fallen golf partner.

A new clot-busting drug administered at the hospital stabilized Ken enough so that he could be air-lifted to a larger city, where angioplasty and a stent afforded him a second chance. “You’re mighty lucky,” the cardiologist told him later. Putting his thumb and index finger together until nearly touching, he added, “You came this close to not making it.”

The doctor prescribed twelve weeks of Cardiac Rehab at our local hospital. He told us to consider ourselves fortunate because Manhattan has an outstanding cardiac rehab program. Ken felt fine but tired easily, and the program appealed to him. Even so, an element of fear cropped up occasionally as he waited for the first session. As soon as we met her, the Director of the Rehab unit put us both at ease with her ready smile and assuring words. Marty related stories of people who came to her because they truly wanted to start a heart healthy lifestyle for good, but other tales revealed the sadly large number who attended for the prescribed number of weeks but slid back into bad habits soon after. Once more, these sedentary people warmed chairs and sofas instead of moving arms and legs whenever possible after they’d completed the cardiac rehab course. She emphasized ‘exercise for life’ over and over in our interview. My husband is an intelligent, sensible man, but he’s also a stubborn German by heritage. I knew he would do exactly what he wanted to with his rehab, and I feared he might rebel like a teen-ager.

My fears proved groundless, for Marty’s words impressed Ken that first day. He listened intently as she talked about a new way of eating. He’d indulge in no more high-fat desserts after every meal, no more big steaks when we ate out. Fruits and vegetables would occupy more than half the dinner plate. As chief cook in our house, I paid careful attention to the nutrition advice that rained upon us that afternoon. Marty urged us to follow a diet of low fat and low cholesterol foods, and we learned that portion control ranked high in this new way to live, too.

Over the next twelve weeks, Ken practiced brisk daily walks, worked out on the exercise machines three days a week, and adhered to the diet I regulated at home. His energy level surpassed his best pre-heart attack days, and the pounds slipped away with the new regime. He became a fountain of heart knowledge, spouting tidbits of information he picked up from Marty at his exercise sessions. Among them were “Eat a handful of nuts every day, not a can full.”, “A small piece of dark chocolate several times a week can be beneficial.”, and “Substitute canola oil for butter or margarine when you bake.”

Marty’s advice to make a complete lifestyle change obviously sank in, for Ken completed his twelve weeks course more than four years ago but continues to exercise daily and follows a heart-healthy diet.

Besides Marty’s advice, there was another reason Ken continued to follow the program. During the rehab weeks, he thought often of his father who suffered a heart attack and died at age 63, only three weeks before his planned retirement. Ken’s dad missed the joy and freedom of retirement years. He missed watching his grandchildren grow up. He missed more time with his wife. I think Ken wished someone had given his father the good advice he’d received in his own cardiac rehab program. Ken had a choice to make.

Did he want to risk losing all the things lost to his father? Despite my husband’s reputation as a hard-headed, stubborn German, he’s also a “Heart-Smart” kind of guy who plans to hang around this world for many more years. He lives a full life today because he made the best choice.

Author’s Note: Ken continues to exercise faithfully each day, and I watch his diet. He leads a full and active life and we both count each and every day a blessing.