David Goff said he didn't know it at the time, but when a feeling of pressure began to grow in his chest during a golf game, his heart attack had started.
"I just hit one of the prettiest shots I had ever seen on the golf course, when it hit me," the 67-year-old Covington resident said. "It felt like a lead weight was placed on my chest."
He eventually left his golfing partner and made it home and called 911. The paramedics arrived and placed him in an ambulance. Goff said the next thing he knew he was at Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta.
Goff had his heart attack last month. Now, he is beginning the long road to recovery. He began physical rehabilitation last week in Newton Medical Center's Fitness Forum. Physical therapists monitor Goff's heart rate while he works out on a tread mill.
Goff's rehabilitation happens to be occurring during February, American Heart Month, a time set aside each year to highlight heart disease prevention and treatment.
Cardiovascular diseases, including stroke and heart attack, are the number one killer in the United States. The American Heart Association encourages everyone to recognize the signs of a heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest.
Characteristics of heart attacks include discomfort in the chest and upper body, shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat and lightheadedness. Strokes strike quickly and involve a numbness in the face, arms or legs along with trouble speaking or confusion and a severe headache with no known cause. A cardiac arrest can strike immediately and without warning. A cardiac arrest victim will show a sudden loss of responsiveness and troubled breathing.
All three conditions share one thing in common - the need to get immediate medical attention to avoid possible disability.
Goff said he knew he was not feeling well and did not wait long before calling 911. It appears that call saved his life. Newton County paramedic Patrick Kerry said Goff's heart stopped twice - once in the driveway and again en route to Newton Medical Center.
"It was pretty obvious at the time that he was having a serious cardiac arrest," Kerry said. "He looks a lot better now than he did that day."
Goff is now working with the NMC Fitness Forum staff to formulate a workout program and has started working on eating healthier.
According to the American Heart Association, eating better, along with exercise, are the two primary ways to reduce the risk of heart disease. Though a trained dietitian can best set up a food plan for individuals, the basics are fairly straight forward. Adding more nutrient-rich foods like vegetables and fruits and whole-grain food with high fiber content will help a person feel fuller and lower blood cholesterol levels.
Jay Jones can be reached at email@example.com.
SideBar: AMA DIET AND LIFESTYLE TIPS
· Use up as many calories as you take in.
Learn how many calories you should be eating and drinking to maintain your ideal weight. Don't eat more than you can burn in one day. Try to perform moderate exercise every day, or at least several times a week, for 30 minutes. If you don't have time for a full half-hour work out, divide it into 10-minute intervals.
· Eat a variety of foods from all of the food groups.
Eat nutrient-rich foods that contain vitamins, minerals and fiber but are lower in calories. Choose fruits and vegetables to control weight and blood pressure, whole grain foods to lower cholesterol and make you feel full, and fish at least twice a week, which may lower risk of death from coronary artery disease.
· Eat less nutrient-poor foods.
Using your daily allotment of calories on a few high-calorie foods and beverages probably won't give you the nutrition required to be healthy. Limit food and drinks high in calories but low in nutrients. Also, limit the consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. Specifically, choose lean meats or poultry without the skin; cut back on foods with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils; cut back on foods high in cholesterol; cut back on drinks and foods with added sugar; prepare food with little or no salt; drink alcohol in moderation - one drink per day for women, two for men; and monitor portion size and nutritional content when eating out.
· Don't smoke tobacco.
Cigarette smoking accounts for nearly 440,000 deaths each year, of which more than 135,000 are due to smoking-related cardiovascular diseases. Cigarette smokers are two to three times more likely to die from coronary heart disease than nonsmokers.
Source: American Heart Association