Prevention: Best Weapon in the Arsenal to Combat Cardiovascular Disease
Patient wins his fight against heart disease through lifestyle changes
“Dop”, what Darren Troutman is affectionately called by his family and friends, has a family history of cardiovascular disease. A number of his relatives are on medications for high cholesterol and high blood pressure. His parents and brother suffer from diabetes and his paternal grandparents both died of heart attacks before the age of 50. Troutman just assumed heart and vascular disease were his destiny.
“I had resigned myself to the fact that I hadn’t put myself in this situation,” Troutman says, recalling his mindset prior to seeking counsel from Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, MD, a cardiologist on the medical staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and its Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and associate professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “I thought I was destined to be overweight, have high blood pressure and eventually develop diabetes. Dr. Lloyd-Jones helped me to realize that despite my family history I had the power to do more than take medication. I could take control of my situation and change it."
Like hereditary clockwork, Troutman was on medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol by the time he was 34. At the young age of 39, he suffered a series of heart attacks that led to a corrective quadruple bypass surgery—he hadn’t even reached his 40th birthday. “Something had to change,” said Troutman, now 44, recalling his thoughts following surgery. “I wasn’t healthy, but I also didn’t want to die. At the rate I was going, I wasn’t doing much to stop that downward spiral.”
Troutman was referred to experts of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute for cardiovascular disease management. Dr. Lloyd-Jones explained to Troutman that through weight loss, diet modifications and exercise he could reduce the medications he was taking for high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Prior to his heart attacks Troutman had not done much cardiovascular exercise. Shortly after his surgery, he launched a regimen of regular exercise and reduced caloric intake. He lost 40 lbs. in 14 weeks. He no longer requires his blood pressure and cholesterol medications and recently ran his first 5K. "When I went back to see Dr. Lloyd-Jones he told me I have added years to my life," says Troutman. "I'm no longer running the risk of developing diabetes. I am taking fewer medications and I feel great."
Troutman works for Make-A-Wish Foundation. He says everyday he sees children who are faced with life-threatening conditions that they can't do anything to change. "These children don't have the option to make themselves healthy," says Troutman. "It's very humbling to think that I have been given that opportunity while so many people have not. I must control and manage my health instead of letting it manage me."
Prevention and knowledge of the affects of cardiovascular disease are thrusts behind Hearts a Bluhm, an awareness campaign brought forth by Northwestern’s Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute that is manifested in a public art exhibit along Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile”. One hundred, 5-foot, acrylic hearts were adorned and designed by various artists, including those affiliated with Columbia College Chicago, the primary artistic partner for the campaign. More than 80 million Americans suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease, as it is the leading killer of men and women—more so than the leading cancers combined. Through awareness and a concerted effort on prevention, Northwestern believes lives can be saved.
View the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute and the Hearts a Bluhm campaign for more information.
Kris Lathan, Director
Northwestern Memorial Hospital