LIMA — Tom Schimmoller is one of the luckier people with heart trouble — he took preventative measures in order to have a healthy heart again.
It started last August, when he had a checkup with his doctor.
“I didn’t have a heart attack, or anything like that,” said Schimmoller, 70, of Delphos. “My doctor just thought it would be nice if I had a stress test because I hadn’t had one in 12 years. And this was what they found: five bypasses.”
Following the jarring discovery, he had major surgery Nov. 1, and now he’s been keeping an eye on his health more than ever through appropriate diet and exercise. He’s been an advocate for other family members, too.
“I’ve gotten on my brothers,” he said. “One of my brothers, he sort of had a heart attack, and he had a bypass. My other brother had stents put in.”
He’s now about halfway through his 12-week heart rehab program at St. Rita’s Medical Center, building up his strength by doing various cardio exercises with close medical supervision and a heart monitor.
With the Go Red for Women campaign celebrating its 10th anniversary and Heart Month in February, there’s been a strong push to bring awareness to heart disease and showcasing healthy habits, using prevention methods and knowing ways to stay heart-healthy.
“It’s a year-round campaign, because heart disease does not go away,” said Beth Langefels, spokeswoman with the American Heart Association, western Ohio chapter.
Diet and exercise are a must, and it doesn’t have to be anything extreme.
“Little steps can make a big difference. Add at least 10 minutes of moderate activity to what you do everyday,” said Sheri Thomas, outreach coordinator with The Henry & Beverly Hawk Heart & Vascular Center at St. Rita’s. “Just 60 to 90 minutes a week of physical activity can reduce your heart disease risk by up to (50 percent).”
“As we have progressed as a society, we’ve made a lot of things in our lives simple. So we do a lot of sitting; we sit all day. There’s really disturbing studies about the sitting problem, and how this can actually shorten your lifespan,” Langefels said. “We’re having a lot of high-fat, high-calorie, large portions. We’re not being mindful with nutritional value with a lot of things that we eat, and not really recognizing what’s in our food, so reading labels, how much sodium is in something, and how much fat. So the American Heart Association encourages people to cook at home, or to cook themselves, so they know what is in the food.”
Each year, the American Heart Association publishes a heart-healthy cookbook with simple, healthy recipes.
Schimmoller, for example, is trying to eat less red meat and incorporate more chicken and fish into his diet. Langefels said it’s important to know about other risk factors, like knowing family history.
“Heart disease does kill more women than all forms of cancer combined. And it’s all ages; heart disease is a problem among the very young, all the way up to the very old,” she said.
There are some simple steps to reduce the chance of heart disease. Aside from diet and exercise, being a nonsmoker, maintaining a healthy weight and having regular screenings are all essential as well.
Dr. Pamela Gardner, a Lima Memorial Health System cardiologist, has organized events in the area over the past several years to have discussions about their hearts in the community. While times and dates have not been confirmed in February, she said her event is in a conversational format, allowing people to ask questions and get the answers they need.
“I think it’s important for all of us, men and women, to know the signs of heart problems, how to prevent them, that sort of thing. But women don’t necessarily do things according to ‘the book,’” Gardner said. “It wasn’t written about us. It was written about men. We’re getting more and more information about women, but the symptoms aren’t necessarily the same. We often don’t have that chest pain that people talk about. It can be just shortness of breath. It can be, I’m doing whatever and I hit the wall. I can’t do it anymore. And then I sit down and rest and I’m fine. That might be their only heart discomfort. Or maybe pain between their shoulder blades rather than pain right in the middle of their chest.
“It can be all sorts of things. So I think people need to understand that when it comes on when you’re doing something, rather than the way when you rest, that’s a red flag. You need to be checking that out,” she said.
Schimmoller didn’t have any outright symptoms of heart disease, but he’s lucky he got checked, since it was perhaps only a matter of time before he could’ve had a heart attack. His recommendation?
“Everybody should get a stress test when you get to a certain age,” he said.
That test will likely add years onto his life.