15 February 2016

Trans Fats

Back in June 2006, Roger Fickbohm had just finished an hour-long spinning class at a local fitness center, where he'd been working out routinely for years. "As far as I can remember, I felt good after class. I'd gone downstairs to the locker room and had my protein drink as usual. Then I just collapsed," Roger recalls.

Fortunately, Roger's spinning instructor was there to start CPR and use the gym's portable defibrillator to begin shocking his heart into beating normally. "Police arrived within minutes and they got my heart started again," Roger says. "Three days later, I woke up in the hospital and I sat up and asked my daughter 'what happened'?'"

Cardiovascular disease - a common culprit

What happened to Roger isn't all that unusual, says Rufino Festin, MD, cardiologist at Park Nicollet Heart and Vascular Center. "Even though the number of heart attack deaths is starting to decrease, cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, is still the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States." Cardiovascular disease refers to any disease of the heart or major arteries in the body. Cardiovascular disease can cause a variety of other conditions, including:

heart attacks;
coronary artery disease (blocked or hardened arteries supplying the heart muscle);
arrhythmias (irregular heart beats);
peripheral artery disease (blocked or hardened arteries in the legs);
aneurysms (abnormal blood-filled dilatation of a blood vessel or an artery); and

In Roger's case, one of his coronary arteries had suddenly become blocked. "I had no pain whatsoever, but the artery on the left side that pumps the blood out had become blocked and my heart just stopped," Roger says. "That artery is called the left anterior descending, or LAD. When it gets blocked, it is sometimes referred to as a 'widow maker' because it's so serious." While some heart attacks may occur without warning, men need to pay attention to signs such as chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue or swelling in the legs.

Controlling the risks

Although he is active and has ridden 3,500 miles this year with local bike clubs, Roger still lives with several heart attack risk factors, in part because his father had one. "When it comes to risk factors for heart disease, there are some things we cannot control," Dr. Festin says. Men age 45 or older with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, tobacco use or a family history of heart disease are at increased risk and should get regular heart disease screenings.

The good news is men of all ages may be able to reduce their heart attack risk by making some changes. Dr. Festin recommends quitting smoking, which can be done through the support of QUITPLAN centers at six Park Nicollet Clinic locations. He also advises men to manage their diabetes, reduce cholesterol and blood pressure levels, eat right and exercise. Exercise should be moderately intense and consistent. "Men should get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week," Dr. Festin says. "If you are just starting out, do 10 to 15 minutes a day, then add 5 to 10 minutes every two weeks." It also may be reasonable to see your health care provider before starting a new exercise program.

A healthy diet is low in saturated fat without trans fats, such as those found in fried foods and bakery items. "I recommend a Mediterranean diet, which includes moderate amounts of fish, cereals, fruits and vegetables," Dr. Festin says.

To live and learn

Fifteen months after his heart attack, Roger remains diligent about routine checkups and reducing his risks for another one. "After more than a year, it would be easy to think 'I'm OK now so I can go back to eating hamburgers and fries and not working out'," Roger says. "But I have been given a second chance and I realize the importance of taking care of myself and sharing my experience with others."