Lifestyle Changes Make all the Difference 

Christine didn’t want to believe that she had a heart problem, not even when her heart woke her from a sound sleep last summer. Her heart was pounding so hard and fast that she could feel it in her back and in her arms.

Christine’s husband and son tried to convince her to seek help, but she kept saying “It’ll go away.” After the racing heartbeat continued for 12 hours, she finally relented and went to the emergency room. It wasn’t her first trip to the ER. Six months earlier, Christine  had experienced a similar episode at which she was given blood pressure medication and baby aspirin and advised to watch her diet.

This time around, she was given a stress test and an echocardiogram. She saw cardiologist Eileen Kelly, MD, and Jose Nazari, MD, an electrophysiologist and began taking medications to control her heart rate and cholesterol. She also took a long hard look at her risk factors and decided to make some lifestyle changes.

In a meeting with a Women’s Heart Program Nurse, Christine took a serious look at her diet. She wrote down everything she ate and began to cut out foods that were high in fat and cholesterol. She also set aside time to walk each day. When it’s cold, she walks at the Park Center in Glenview.  She is well on her way to a healthier life and a stronger heart.

She feels more energetic – which is a very good thing for a mother of 4 and a grandmother of 6, and she feels happy that as spring approaches, all of her clothes are getting looser.

Calming A Heart That Shifts Into Overdrive 

Kate is a 52-year-old mom and registered nurse who has worked at Evanston Hospital for the past 28 years. About 7 years ago, while seeking help in the ER for an ear infection, the doctor treating her noticed that her heart was racing and told her she was in atrial fibrillation. The doctor suggested that perhaps her racing heart was a result of the infection in her body and that the condition would clear itself.

But then it happened again – and again – and again. For five years this went on. Kate would feel her heartbeat suddenly shift into overdrive. Sometimes it would last 12 hours, sometimes 14. Then, just as suddenly, her heart would correct itself. She could not predict when it would occur – but it would leave her feeling tired and weak.

In May of ’03, Kate met with Dr. Westby Fisher, a cardiac electrophysiologist. He gave her a prescription for a drug that would slow her heart rate. She felt better until this past year, when her racing heartbeat returned. It made her legs feel heavy and finding the energy she needed for work was difficult. She hated calling in sick for work decided to seek a more permanent solution.

Dr. Fisher told her she was a good candidate for ablation – a procedure in which a heat wand is used to remove heart tissue that is interfering with the heart’s normal electrical impulses. On Nov 30 of 2004 she had the procedure. Kate admits that she still sleeps with her stethoscope next to her bed, but she’s very happy with the outcome. Her atrial fibrillation episodes aren’t as frequent. As time passes, her results may improve even more. But she’s back to work and happy to be moving to a steady beat.

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