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Know your health: the role of your diet in the health of your heart

Get to the Heart_AHM_Lockup_FINAL_CMYK_te011022-01

American Heart Month is designed to bring awareness to many factors surrounding heart disease, such as risk factors, symptoms, complications and new treatment options and tools. Mostly, it’s designed to encourage people to make heart health a priority. 

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. American Heart Month reminds us that making small changes now can lead to a lifetime of good heart health. 

John Goolsby experienced these changes firsthand. In August of 2021, John got up from lying down, put on his shoes to walk his dogs, and felt a jolt in his chest. The feeling spread down both of his arms, but he went outside with the dogs anyway. After 5-10 minutes, he couldn’t seem to relax and couldn’t shake the discomfort. He began feeling anxious and his respiration was climbing. That’s when the fear of a heart attack came to mind.

John drove himself to the nearest emergency room and was transported by ambulance to Good Samaritan Medical Center. Once there, the doctors did an EKG and determined he had suffered a heart attack. In fact, he had suffered a severe heart attack known as STEMI, or ST-elevation myocardial infarction, which carries the worst morbidity and mortality as compared to other forms of heart attack. 

The heart and vascular team at Good Samaritan Medical Center put in a stent later that evening. John spent an extra day in the hospital because he went into AFib, or abnormal heart rhythm, but fortunately it corrected itself on its own. 

John’s follow-up care has been led by the Medical Director of Cardiovascular Service Line at SCL Health and Vascular Institute and Chair of the Department of Cardiovascular Services at Good Samaritan Medical Center, Dr. Wojciech Nowak.

“Dr. Nowak has been a huge wealth of information for me following my procedure,” said John. “Everyone at Good Samaritan was absolutely top-notch. Every single person is there because they genuinely care for people. It couldn’t have been a better experience. I was extremely impressed. It was humbling the way they care about total strangers. I truly believe a person couldn’t land in a better hospital.”

John spent the next three months going to rehab therapy three times a week. Part of his rehab included nutrition classes. That’s where he learned about the crucial role your diet plays in your overall health and physical fitness. 

“The rehab nurses were amazing and they were completely interested in my care, my life and my lifestyle,” John said. “They always had answers to my questions, and if they didn’t, they would find the answers and follow up with me.”

Through these classes, he learned that he had the power to make a difference in his health. He had always been a fit guy who exercised regularly, but he spent years eating just so-so. 

“Our food sources are marinating in sodium and cholesterol,” John said. “We eat deep fried foods and our big plates are a true sign of the times. Our parents and grandparents didn’t eat the portion sizes we eat, so why are we?”

John spent decades eating a meat-based diet, but has since switched to more plant-based because he’s learned how critical good nutrition is to overall heart health. He loves riding his dirt bike and is back to working out as hard as he did when he was younger. His energy levels are up post-procedure and he’s lost 15 pounds.

“Unless someone has experienced a cardiac event personally, they probably don’t think much about it, and won’t until something goes wrong,” said John. “I want people to know there are ways to keep yourself healthier, and diet and exercise are two of the most important. Learn, change, and move out of the path of least resistance. The earlier you change, the better off you’ll be. If I had eaten better, I probably could have avoided this whole ordeal.”