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Improving your heart health should be a goal for everyone, regardless of age. Did you know that every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack? One common cause of heart attacks is blockages in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. According to the American Heart Association, one of the most effective ways to treat and manage the blockage of blood to the heart muscle is coronary artery bypass surgery. 

Bypass surgery requires taking arteries or veins from one part of the body and using them to reroute blood to feed the heart muscles. Though coronary bypass surgery doesn’t cure heart disease, it does help alleviate the symptoms of blocked arteries, such as chest pain and shortness of breath. By following bypass surgery with lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet and regular exercise, it’s possible to improve heart function and enjoy years of improved health.

A Heart Health Success Story

Longtime Naples resident and philanthropist Lex Roulston can attest to the heart-healthy benefits of undergoing bypass surgery and then embracing a healthful lifestyle. 

Your journey to senior living starts here, with this step-by-step guide that  covers everything you need to know to get started.

In 2001, Lex Roulston underwent quintuple bypass surgery after doctors discovered blockages in all five of the major vessels of his heart.

After surgery, Mr. Roulston spent 12 weeks doing cardiac rehab three times per week to rebuild his strength. An added bonus to Mr. Roulston’s time in rehab was the encouragement he received from the nursing staff to make heart-healthy diet and exercise choices a focal point of his life. When Mr. Roulston finished rehab, he promised the nurses he would begin by cutting out sweets.

Though the transition wasn’t always easy, Mr. Roulston stuck with it, giving up not only the desserts, but also red meat, dairy, bacon, and fried foods—all well-known contributors to coronary artery disease.

This heart-friendly diet combined with regular exercise like stationary bike riding, stretching and flexibility exercises, weight training, and working with a personal trainer have vastly improved Mr. Roulston’s overall health. In an interview with the American Heart Association’s Support Network 17 years after his quintuple bypass surgery, he reported that his cholesterol levels were around 150, his blood pressure was 114/67, and  he had dropped 40 pounds!

Mr. Roulston attributed his great bill of health to his lifestyle changes, including regular physical activity, increased consumption of fish and lean meats, plenty of fruits and vegetables, reduced salt and sugar, and avoidance of extra fat and calories by requesting sauces and dressings on the side.

Begin Your Own Heart-Health Journey Today

There is no time like the present to kick off your heart-health journey! If you aren’t sure where to start, the Mayo Clinic offers these healthy lifestyle suggestions:

Follow a healthy-eating plan, such as the DASH diet

The DASH diet—Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension — is a research-backed approach to heart-healthy eating. The DASH diet emphasizes correct portion sizes and a variety of foods and nutrients to lower blood pressure without medication. 

Exercise regularly

Exercise is key to a healthy heart, so get moving! Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Look for activities you love to do so that you’ll be more likely to stick with them. 

Manage stress

The Fort Myers area is home to many senior-focused resources designed to help you find the services and activities you need easily. Stress less with this comprehensive guide to everything from senior centers and transportation providers to accountants and estate planners.

Stop smoking

The American Lung Association website is a great place to start when you’re ready to go tobacco-free. The website offers tips, tools, support, and a step-by-step plan to quit, as well as ways to connect with others in a group clinic.

Start your journey to senior living today with this step-by-step guide

Teresa Keating, RN

About the Author: Teresa Keating, RN

Teresa is a registered nurse with 30 years’ experience working with the senior population in England, Tennessee and Florida. Originally from Weymouth, Dorset, England she has been involved in all areas of healthcare in a post-acute care setting including hospitals, rehabilitation and home health. Her experience includes being a business owner, marketing director and a director of nursing. Teresa is married to Gary for over 20 years and has two children.