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Healing hearts

Photo by Renee Shadforth/Sierra SunSergejs Popovs reads a printout from a heart monitor at Tahoe Forest Hospital on Tuesday.
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The pain was dramatic and his temperature changes so radical that Tom Trumble didn’t notice the less intense but more recognizable heart attack symptoms.

“I thought I had been dropped into Antarctica, and then went from Antarctica to hell,” Trumble recalled.

Five hours later, when Trumble finally sought medical attention and received the heart attack diagnosis, one-third of his heart was already dead.



“If I had gotten in within two hours, I would have saved my heart,” he said.

That first cardiac episode happened in 1999, and was followed by an unexpected double-bypass last October.



Neither are events Trumble said he wishes to relive, so to maintain his heart’s health and continue to increase its strength, the 67-year-old Agate Bay resident has been participating in Heart to Heart, a cardiac rehabilitation program through Tahoe Forest Hospital.

“He was a walking time-bomb,” said Trumble’s wife, Carolyn. “(Cardiac) rehab has changed his outlook; he’ll make better choices.”

For Trumble, like many other cardiac patients, those choices include paying closer attention to fat, sodium and fiber content of foods, getting off the couch and onto the treadmill and quitting smoking.

“When patients come to us after a heart intervention like a bypass or a heart attack, we give them a plan for rehabilitation with the goal of strengthening the body and the heart,” said Birgetta Depaoli, an exercise physiologist. “If you can increase flexibility and strengthen the muscles of the body, then the heart doesn’t have to work as hard.”

With the help of a staff of registered nurses and exercise physiologists, nearly 50 Heart to Heart participants focus on stretching, flexibility, endurance and strength training in an effort to recover from cardiovascular disease and surgical procedures.

But cardiac patients aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit. Also offered at Tahoe Forest Hospital is Silver Steps, a 12-week fitness program designed specifically for seniors wishing to maintain optimum heart health, as well as weekly heart health discussions that focus on such topics as stress management, smart grocery shopping, lowering blood pressure, and medication tips.

Coronary heart disease, which causes heart attack, is now the number one killer for women, according to the American Heart Association, accounting for more than 40 percent of all female deaths in America. And nearly twice as many women in the United States die of heart disease and stroke as from all forms of cancer, including breast cancer.

“Women are silent victims,” said Carolyn Trumble. “I have always eaten healthy, but I don’t want to mess around.”


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