Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love Your Heart!

This is what 34 years of Jazzercise looks like!
     Vicki will never forget a Jazzercise class she taught more than a decade ago. She was leading a routine to a Cher song, when she had the sensation of something flicking her chest from the inside. That was only the beginning.
     Over the next two months, the veteran Jazzercise instructor experienced a feeling that would come and go.
     “It was like something tumbling around in my chest, like a big fish flopping around on land,” she said.
     Eventually, Vicki ended up in the hospital for a stress test. After only two minutes, she was yanked off the treadmill, her heart racing. She was experiencing ventricular tachycardia, or V-tach, a condition that can be life-threatening. In the waiting room her family was told she would need heart surgery or she would die.
      In addition to teaching Jazzercise for 34 years, Vicki is an instructor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she teaches anatomy to future medical students. With her fitness and medical training, Vicki recognized the severity of her situation. But she had no idea just how important her years of fitness were for her survival.
     “The surgeon told me Jazzercise saved my life,” she said.
     Vicki’s condition was caused by scar tissue that formed in one of the arteries of her heart. When Vicki was working out to Cher earlier in the year, she probably felt the tissue break away. The loose scar tissue almost totally blocked her artery, a condition that can lead to a heart attack. Fortunately, Vicki’s strong, healthy heart developed collateral circulation, alternate routes that bypass the blockage and carry the oxygen enriched blood needed to sustain life.
     After her operation, the surgeon told Vicki her heart was pristine –like an infant’s – and she could thank Jazzercise for keeping the heart muscle healthy enough to prevent a heart attack. The surgeon was able to repair the damage and Vicki was back on the Jazzercise stage in six weeks.
     I sat down with Vicki recently to ask about her experience and the lessons she learned. Here’s what she told me.
·      Be in tune with your body.
Know how you’re supposed to feel and when something feels amiss, find out what’s going on. Consistent exercise can help you recognize the signals.

·      Don’t automatically dismiss symptoms you aren’t sure about. Women with heart issues present differently than men and not everyone reacts the same way.

·      Embrace your birthday. “The moon at night looks different to me now,” says Vicki. “Every day is a gift."

     Vicki and I share a birthday. That’s always made me happy because there’s no one I would rather turn a year older with than a woman with a kind and kick-ass heart!

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