Work It!

There really shouldn’t be any doubt about it – if you have a chronic illness such as a heart defect, you have got to take care of yourself. Obtaining health insurance is difficult if not impossible – yet we are the ones who need it, as we’ll need doctor’s appointments and prescription medication more often than most people. Public assistance (Medicare or Medicaid here in the United States) is available, but both programs make you jump through bureaucratic hoops and limit the amount of pay you can earn. Most CHDers I know have bum hearts but sharp brains, and we’d rather not go that route.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is exercise: you’ll feel better, and hopefully you’ll be able to hold the doctor at bay for a little longer. You usually can’t weight – lift yourself off of your medicines, but improve your health and the doctor might not need to see you nearly as often. After I went into heart failure and then had a stroke, my cardiologist wanted to see me once a month for eight months – That’s the cost of gas to from my home to Atlanta and back (about 500 miles one way), meals, and a hotel room every 30 days. It adds up.

So do what you can to take care of yourself. First of all, discuss your exercise options with your doctor. If you propose to start walking, he’ll probably be cool with that. If you want to climb Mount Everest… I doubt he’ll agree!

As you may know, I walk. I would have loved to have walked the Bolder Boulder, but my cardiologist had said “No.” because of the altitude, and I followed his advice.  A good brisk walk that gets your heart rate up is a great thing. It gives you time to sort through your problems and make important decisions. It also gives you a natural high, a sense of feeling good and actually doing something to help yourself. And recent research has shown that feeling lasts a lot longer than you might think – even though you don’t “feel” it, your body is supercharged! Obesity and Diabetes make a case of heart failure worse, so it stands to reason that if you are susceptible to heart failure, avoid the other two. Exercise can reduce your risk of both conditions.

So go for a walk. Play in the neighborhood. Put some music on the stereo and dance around the house – I promise I won’t laugh, I can’t dance either! Just do something. Just get up and start taking care of yourself!

Do yourself a favor and move those muscles;

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