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02/18/2021

Feb. 1 – Mar. 1: Black History Month

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Heart Health: Strength Through Support Systems

By Olga Gonzalez, TeamHealth Provider Enrollment Representative

I was diagnosed as a non-compliant diabetic with high cholesterol and high blood sugar in 2009. After that diagnosis, I experienced the common frustrations associated with watching what you eat and maintaining good physical activity levels. Almost 10 years later, after a terrifying experience, I was reminded that those factors are also crucial to maintaining good heart health.

October 13, 2018, began like any other day. I was having lunch with my mother, sister and son when, without warning, suddenly I felt a hot, tight pressure in my chest. I excused myself to the restroom to try to catch my breath. When I returned to the table, my mom said I looked pale and insisted we call 911. That decision saved my life.

My blood sugar levels were over 300 when I arrived at the hospital. I had three blocked arteries, one at 100% and two at 95%, and surgery was scheduled for October 22. However, the next day, when the blood thinners cleared my system, I experienced another heart attack. Thankfully my sister was visiting and able to call the hospital staff. I underwent a nine hour quintuple bypass open heart surgery and woke up to the anesthesiologist talking to me. I have no doubt my strong will and the constant support of my family made me a survivor.

One small step at a time

Throughout my recovery, my cardiologist encouraged me to take small steps to change my lifestyle and better my heart health, so I began walking and eventually took part in 5Ks with my friends and family. My sister was one of my workout partners, but the pandemic means I don’t see her as often. So, we’ve found ways to use technology to stay in touch and still get in some activity. I now also walk approximately two miles a day, usually with my mom. Through all of this, I am most thankful for my family. They support me and help me sustain healthy habits as much as possible.

I use a continuous glucose monitor (CMG) to help manage my diabetes. In addition, I try to eat well, keep up with my doctor’s appointments, get my eyes checked and see my endocrinologist regularly. My goal is to one day be able to switch from insulin to oral medication.

Through everything, I have learned that heart health is important and small steps can make a large difference. Diabetes is considered high-risk to lead to heart disease, so for American Heart Month, TeamHealth encourages everyone to know their numbers and lead a heart healthy lifestyle.