Have a heart this month

Local survivors share their stories

A Camas woman is an example of the importance of recognizing the warning signs of a heart attack. Pat King had a massive heart attack in July 2011. Prior to that, she was a smoker and she was often tired.

King, 56, had been scheduled to have a thyroid test with her doctor that week.

“I never made it to that test,” she said. “I had shortness of breath and some swelling of the ankles. At work, they said I was pretty spacey.

“The fatigue lasted for months or years,” King added. “I had no energy.”

She had a triple bypass operation, and a valve problem was repaired.

She spent almost three months in a hospital and learned how to walk again.

“It was hard on my family and me,” King said. “Two doctors told me they did not think I would live. Thank God I had good insurance.”

Since the bypass, she has enjoyed attending monthly meetings with a women’s heart health support group at Legacy Salmon Creek Hospital.

“I’ve learned a lot,” King said. “I missed a lot of symptoms of mine. I obviously knew something was wrong. I had gone to the doctor that week.

“Women’s symptoms can be a lot different from men’s,” she added. “We need to get women to pay attention, like I did not.”

King no longer smokes.

“I had to change my life and my eating habits, my diet, my exercising — I actually had to start doing it,” she said. “Cardio rehab, it’s not a fun thing to go through.”

It included three months of sessions where King had to exercise on a treadmill, while hooked up to a heart monitor.

She was off work for eight months and returned part-time in March 2012.

King, a former administrative assistant and evidence tech with the Washougal Police Department, is now an administrative assistant with the city’s Public Works Department.

“It was good for me to come here and start a new thing, without my old habits,” she said. “It’s a lot less stressful environment.”

Heart health will be the topic of the next Washougal Wellness Committee “Lunch and learn” meeting, Thursday, Feb. 21, at noon, in the training room of the Camas-Washougal Fire Department Station 17-1, 1400 “A” St. A representative from “Women Heart, The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, is expected to provide information during the session.

King is grateful to be alive.

“It takes work,” she said. “It’s not easy to change your life, but you do what you got to do.”

In the winter King is on a treadmill for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. When the weather warms up, she and her husband Terry often walk around Lacamas Lake with their two dogs.

King’s family, including her mother and half-brother, have experienced heart disease.

Washougal Mayor Sean Guard recently proclaimed February as the American Heart Association’s “Women’s Heart Health Month.” In doing so, he encourages citizens to learn more about the risk factors for heart disease, its warning signs and lifesaving emergency response techniques.

According to the heart association, 42.9 million women are currently living with some form of cardiovascular disease. More than 2.6 million women have a history of heart attack, and 33.2 percent of women do not engage in leisure-time physical activity.

Marian Lilley’s family has a history of heart disease. That included her father and an uncle, and her oldest son, age 45, has heart issues.

Lilley, 78, had her first bypass surgery at the age of 49. She had another one 12 years later.

“They said I did not produce enough HDL ‘good cholesterol’ to override the bad,” Lilley said.

Two years before her first bypass, she felt a pain in her chest. Lilley took medication between the ages of 47 and 49.

She has been taking a statin drug for 33 years.

Four years ago, Lilley underwent a stent procedure.

“I feel very fortunate,” she said. “God takes care of me. I rely on God, and whatever happens, happens.”Lilley, of Fern Prairie, has volunteered for 25 years at the Inter-Faith Treasure House in Washougal.

At least three days a week, she works out on a treadmill and weight machines at LaCamas Swim & Sport, in Camas.

Lilley advises women and men to pay attention to what they eat.

“People need to learn to reevaluate their food intake and not eat all the bad fats,” she said. “The sweets with the sugars are so bad for us. Eat more fruits and vegetables and grains.

“I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to live this long,” she added.

Local doctor recommends a healthy lifestyle

According to Dr. Dino Ramzi, women are just as vulnerable as men to developing cardiovascular disease, although it is likely to affect females 10 years later.

Ramzi, a partner at Lacamas Medical Group, said exercise is important.

“A 30-minute walk is very doable,” he said. “I expect my 92-year-old grandmother to do it. It’s something you will enjoy and something that will help stress management. When you feel better, you do more.”

Eating healthy foods is also important.

“We’ve been saying it for 20 years, maybe longer,” Ramzi said. “Do not pig out on any one thing. Have variety in your diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables. People ignore that because beef tastes so good. If you are cautious with the things you enjoy, you’ll do very well.”

He has served as president of the Clark County Medical Society for three years.

Ramzi recommends making sure the risk factors of blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes are well controlled, and not smoking.

“It’s an issue of awareness, prevention and getting people to their docs for their screenings,” he said. “Cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar are the three biggest contributors to cardiovascular disease, peripheral artery disease, stroke and hardening of the arteries.

“Make sure you get your primary care stuff done for the screening of the big risk factors,” Ramzi added. “There’s not a lot of fancy technology. It’s really simple stuff that makes the difference.”