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He’s got the beat

April E. Clark

For heart-attack survivor Dave Sturges, irony may have been his best medicine.On Nov. 1, 1997, the 25-year resident of Glenwood Springs was using the stair stepper at the Hot Springs Athletic Club. Halfway through his 20-minute exercise program, he became nauseated and light-headed, and felt pressure in his chest. He was having a heart attack.”There’s some irony to my story because the heart attack came while I was doing aerobic exercise,” he said. “I was actually in the hospital two weeks before doing a stress test and was OK.”Sturges credits Dick Screen, manager of the athletic club, for his quick, lifesaving action, as well as Valley View Hospital’s emergency room staff.”I asked him to take me to the hospital and we were there within 10 minutes,” Sturges said. “A lot of people compare it to a 900-pound gorilla sitting on your chest,” he said. “For me the pain was quite significant. It was like a steel band around my chest.”In the knowAt the time of his heart attack, Sturges was being treated for elevated cholesterol. Back then, his cholesterol level was around 330. Now it has lowered to 165 or below. “I was relatively knowledgeable about cardiovascular disease and, I think, taking a very aggressive stance,” he said. “But obviously not enough to avoid a heart attack.”Carlos Albrecht, a cardiologist at the Valley Heart and Vascular Center at Valley View Hospital, said cardiovascular education can be important to avoiding an attack.”It’s better to know the risks before the first heart attack happens,” he said. “There are unavoidable factors such as genes, and getting older – for men above the age of 65 and women after menopause. There are preventable factors including smoking, knowing your cholesterol numbers, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.”A few ways Albrecht suggests people live a heart-healthy is by not smoking and avoiding fast food restaurants – completely.”Smoking is the No. 1 factor we can modify. There’s always a good time to quit,” he said. “Also, do not go to fast food restaurants, period. Food was not meant to be fast. We were meant to fix healthy food and eat it slowly at the table.”Unfortunately, he has seen other avoidable factors, far worse than smoking and eating fast food, cause cardiovascular problems, Albrecht said.”The use of cocaine and methamphetamine raise the risk,” he said. “I cannot believe the number of patients I have seen who fail to disclose their drug use to their doctors.”Make a changeOn a positive note, adults can choose one simple route to avoid heart attacks .”If you are more than 35 years old and relatively healthy, baby aspirin can be an extremely cheap and the side effects are extremely minimal.”Although age can be a factor in the risk for cardiovascular disease, Albrecht said it can happen to even the youngest of patients.”I have a brother who is 33 who just had a heart attack. He didn’t know his numbers,” he said. “It can hit at any time. The earliest one I’ve seen is 21 years of age.”At 63 years old, Sturges is proud to report that his health is better than ever.”Now I can do an hour or an hour and half on the treadmill, and I’m doing weight training. I try to work out three days a week,” he said. “I go into the hot springs pool and walk around in circles for cardio exercise. I’m probably known as ‘the crazy old man at the hot springs pool.'”That, or one healthy heart-attack survivor at the hot springs pool.Contact April E. Clark: 945-8515, ext. 518, aclark@postindependent.com


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