Dr. Larry Bishop Shares Rules To Live Well By
By Dr. Larry Bishop // February 13, 2013
ACTIVE LIVING FEATURE
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Whenever I tell people I have had a heart attack, there are usually three responses.
One is surprise. I am trim and athletic and don’t fit the profile of the usual heart attack victim.
The second is concern. My patients and friends are concerned I might “overdo it” and kill myself in my post-infarction years. I’m always appreciative of the sentiment, but I am not likely to ever be the “take it easy” kind of guy.
The third response is more thought provoking. They ask “Did it change your life?” And my answer is yes, it did change my life by teaching me some important lessons. And so, with my MacBook Pro on my lap, I’d like to tell you five things I learned by having a heart attack.
RULE NUMBER ONE
It’s never too early to eat healthily. Although I knew this fact based on data I had learned in medical school related to young people who had been killed in the Korean War, I really didn’t think it would apply to me.
My rationale was that for the vast majority of my life, I had been a runner or a cyclist, and virtually never led a truly sedentary life. I was wrong. Eating healthy foods should be a lifelong pursuit, and not eating well cannot be mitigated by exercise.
And, as a note, vegetarianism is not a panacea. Many vegetarian meals are based on saturated fats, and as such are bad for you. Also, moderate intake of alcohol (less than two drinks a week) helps reduce heart disease, and is better than being a teetotaler.
RULE NUMBER TWO
Exercise is your friend. In my immediate post-heart attack period, I was a little angry. I had played the healthy living game well, with exercise and a reasonably healthy diet.
I was in far better shape than many of my peers and really enjoyed running and cycling. Those activities were important, integral parts of my daily life.
When I expressed “Hey, I don’t deserve this deal” to my friend, Tom Swain, one of the cardiologists who took care of me in the aftermath, he said simply, “If you weren’t in such great shape, this probably would have killed you.” End of discussion.
RULE NUMBER THREE
Genetics play a role, but you can still dictate the outcome. Strangely enough, I did not have a family history for premature heart disease, and didn’t even have a significantly elevated serum cholesterol (it hovered between 180 and 200), but I carried genes that predisposed me nevertheless to having a heart attack.
I make a subset of lipid particles, which are particularly “atherogenic,” which means they are more likely to cause vascular disease, and those particles can be controlled using a combination of medications dictated by a specialist in lipid disorders.
RULE NUMBER FOUR
That which does not kill you makes you better. I think all of us tend to drift through our lives without truly contemplating the whys and what-fors that truly drive our daily decision-making. In my case, I was happy both in my career and my family life, and did not really give a lot of consideration to sharing my efforts with others around me.
By coming to the realization after my heart attack that my time was truly temporary on this earth, I began to plan how I could best leave my community better for my having been in it.
I joined with others who were way ahead of me on the community service curve, and identified organizations, which would benefit from my involvement. I joined forces with the Brevard Zoo, which is one of the crown jewels of our community, as well as the Brevard Art Museum and finally with Holmes Regional Medical Center, our community hospital, and especially the Heart Institute, which had done so much for me.
I have focused my efforts on raising money for these worthy institutions and hope to continue to do so for years to come. Community involvement is now an integral part of my life and has made me a better person.
RULE NUMBER FIVE
Finally, I found out that I could not only survive my heart attack, but I could thrive after it. I asked my cardiologist, Steve Karas, if I could start running again almost immediately after the event. He laughed and said no, I’d have to wait a couple of months before I could run, and I couldn’t enter a race until three months afterward.
After my first few tentative runs went well, I gradually spooled back up to my usual full-speed workouts, and, with Dr. Karas’ blessing, ran my first 5K race three months to the day after my heart attack finishing third in my age group. I have spent most of my training time recently on my bicycle, and if all goes well, I will cycle late this summer in the Alps and Pyrenees of France, climbing all the iconic climbs of the Tour de France.
Difficult athletic endeavors are still in my realm of possibility, and I am happy and grateful I can still do these things. As one last point, I would encourage every reader to keep a small packet of aspirin available in their car, at work, or (as I do) in the saddlebag of their bike. And if you witness someone having a heart attack, give them an aspirin to chew and swallow while you call 911.
Your immediate action may save their life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Larry Bishop graduated with honors from Wright State University School of Medicine, and served in the Air Force for nine years. He is an affiliate of MIMA and specializes in cosmetic and surgical dermatology, including Mohs Micrographic Surgery, as well as non-surgical rejuvenation of the face. He has lectured on dermatologic surgery techniques both in the U.S. and in Europe. You may contact Dr. Bishop at 321-751-9097.