It takes a licking and keeps on...
KILAUEA, Hawaii — I've always thought that when you have a heart attack you bend over and clutch your chest in excruciating pain, like in the movies. It didn't happen like that with me. It was a mild pain, something I could stand. Thinking back, all I can remember is feeling uncomfortable.
I was cleaning out an old bus, a '58 Superior — the prototype with the 6-cylinder gas engine. My grandfather started the business transporting children during WWII by converting old pineapple trucks into school buses. So my father was proud when he bought the Superior.
So I'm out cleaning the family relic because it was falling apart. I had collected little treasures — pictures, toys, etc. — and had them in the Superior. You know how they say men like to collect stuff. That's when I felt something I thought was a cramp. I tried to stretch. I felt so uncomfortable. It was something I'd never felt in my chest or in my body. I wasn't perspiring or anything.
My wife was inside the house. I told her there was something different, that something was wrong. She said we'd better go see the doctor. After some blood tests, my doctor told me that I had suffered a mild heart attack. A week and a half later, I had quadruple bypass surgery. That was in September 2003. I was 57 years old.
It was caused by work stress and inactivity. You eat a heavy dinner at night and you sit down and watch television. That's what I started to do after I got married. But I still played softball. Every Sunday, I go diving or fishing, so I thought I was active.
My friends smoke and drink, and thought I was the healthy one. But my family has a history of heart problems. Heredity plays a big part, but you have to watch your diet. At 5 foot 5 inches and 164 pounds, I was not overweight — a little chubby, but not overweight. I lost 19 pounds after the heart attack.
You have to ask yourself what's important. You need to relax, take a break. That's what my doctor told me. Go for a walk. Be active. Once you have a heart attack, you realize what's important.
10 strategies to reduce stress
Remember to breathe
Don't skip meals
Read something spiritual or religious
Squeeze a stress ball
Take daily supplements
Delegate when necessary
Take a walk
Count to 10