What the hell is a Myocardial Infarction?

This is an easy one. A Myocardial Infarction is a HEART ATTACK. I mean I guess it sounds better than ATTACK. It was also a totally new term to me. I had ever heard of a Myocardial Infarction before.

So, a Myocardial Infarction is a hear attack. A “MI” (that is what us survivors call’em) happens when your heart (a muscle) is not getting the blood it needs to perform it’s job. Just like any other working part of your body, the heart needs blood, and the oxygen that blood carries in order to keep working.

Why isn’t it getting the blood? Because you had one too many cheeseburgers.

Or you are under a lot of stress. Or you are genetically disposed to have high cholesterol. Whatever it is, the result is the same. The cholesterol left fatty deposits in the arteries that take blood to your heart muscle, and eventually those deposits got do big they caused a blockage. When the blockage is so bad that very little or no blood is getting through, you get an Myocardial Infarction.

Most people have some cholesterol buildup. It’s natural. Some people go through their entire life with blockage that is enough to impact their physical well being, and they never know it. They just fell exhausted and chalk it up to life wearing them down.

I was amazed…stunned…about how much better I felt mere hours after my heart attack. Physically. I will cover my mental state in future posts. But I felt so much better. I had build living with this blockage that it had impacted my quality of life. MANY PEOPLE DON’T KNOW WHY THEY FEEL BAD!

What I was doing wrong?

Frankly, I ate like shit and didn’t care. I loved steak, bacon, cheeseburgers, and friend chicken. And I loved wings. And I didn’t exercise. So all that saturated fat I was eating was building up, and I wasn’t balancing it with healthy foods and exercise. Like any muscle, if you don’t work it out, it can get “flabby” or weak. If you don’t have a strong heart, it makes pumping through all the blockage tough. Add to that I was drinking lots of beer and smoking cigars. The beer is more fat, and while the cigars didn’t cause the MI, they didn’t help it. The nicotine raised my blood pressure. Not good. I was a ticking time bomb, now that I think about it.

What happened to me?

I may have mentioned that I had a MI or, heart attack. During a heart attack, time is muscle. Because I didn’t recognize the symptoms, my heart was dying for over 72 hours. So, I ended up with minor heart damage.

What I am doing now?

I have heart disease. No getting around that. So my arteries are clogged. Still. No getting around that. I have two stents. I got a second chance. So I need to take it seriously.

  1. I go to the gym six days a week. At minimum, I get 30 minutes of exercise each day. That is more than 180 minutes a week.
  2. I have given up the cow. No more red meat. No more dairy. I have also given up on pork. I do have some grilled chicken and some fish. But most of my diet is vegetables.
  3. No more cigars.
  4. Cut waaaay back on my alcohol consumption and the types of beer I drank. Crap like Michelin Ultra is my reality now, but it beats the alternative.
  5. Cut out sugar treats except on rare occasions.

Cardiologists agree that resistance and strength training are great for heart health. Increased muscle mass makes it easier for your body to burn calories which helps maintain a healthy weight. And a healthy weight means that the heart doesn’t have to work as hard.

Year One

On November 16th, 2018, I started to have a heart attack.  The first thing I remember is feeling…weird. Looking back , it started the night before. I had an odd indigestion feeling, and my right under arm was sore. I didn’t think anything of it and went to bed. The next day…I still felt weird. I remember standing in line at lunch time and telling my friend, that my chest and right side felt funny.  Then we laughed it off because we both were so sure that it was nothing. After all, heart attack pain is on the LEFT side of the body, right?  At least that was what I have always been told.  This was a Friday.

I went back to work , and eventually home.  By now, it was feeling more and more like really strong indigestion. Like a bubble the size of a baseball was sitting on my diaphragm.  I would suck in air, and burp, and feel better.  I would take some Alka-Seltzer and it would subside. Again, didn’t thing anything of it. That night I took my boys to the country club for dinner.  I had wings and beer. Then I went home and smoked a cigar.  Saturday was a similar pattern. So was Sunday. Then I went to bed.

Early Monday morning, November 19th, my heart attacked me.  Around 3:30 am, the heart attack woke me up. I felt like instead of a baseball size gas pocket, it was a grapefruit.  And it that feeling was compounded by what felt like my torso being in a vice. I went downstairs, starting to worry.  A feeling of dread came over me.  Again, I took Alks-Seltzer.  My wife followed me down the kitchen and told me to take two aspirin. My wife is a MSN so I didn’t argue. She said I looked scared and it was at that moment we decided to go to the ER.  Fortunately we only live about 20 minutes away.

As soon as I told the front desk I was having chest pains, they wasted no time. However, I remember the attending ER doctor reassuring my wife and I that I was not having a heart attack.  I was too young, he said.

Then he hooked me up to the EKG. From where they had me laying, I couldn’t see the screen (not that it would have mattered) but the look on my wife’s face told me all I needed to know.  I was, in fact, having a heart attack. I was in more pain at this point.  I asked the ER Doc if I was going die. He looked at me, and very matter of factly said “Well, you are having a heart attack, so there is a chance”.  One of the nurses gave me my first ever nitro pill.  Sadly, it would not be my last.

We had left the boys at home. I immediately asked my wife to call them.  Once they were all on the phone, I did one of the hardest things I have ever done. I said goodbye to each of my children.  I told them to take care of each other and their mother, and that I was proud of them, and loved them very much.  Then I had to go. The surgeon came in and talked to us briefly, I don’t remember much of what was said.

Within minutes, they had me on a table, injected me with dye, shoved a balloon up my arm and into my arteries, and then put in two stents.  My life was saved.  Later I would find out that I was seconds away from death.  My LAD was 100% blocked.

The nickname for that artery is the “widow maker“.

I was 45. Overweight, but not obese. Cholesterol was not perfect, but not high. I smoked cigars and drank more than I probably should.  I ate like crap. Was pre-diabetic, and never really watched or cared what I ate. I, like many, thought myself invincible.

Turns out that was one of many, many things I was wrong about.

So here I am a year later.  *SPOILER*…I survived the Heart Attack. A lot has changed in my life.  I have changed. I have done a complete 180 in my life style.  Surviving a heart attack, facing death, and rebooting my life style. That changes a person.  But that is what this site is about.  The changes I have gone through, what I have done to be healthier, and the steps I have taken to keep it going. I have good days, I have bad days. But most importantly, I feel like I need to do something with my second chance. If anything I share on this site can help save one person, I will count that as a success.