Better Than Ever One Year After a Heart Attack

HYANNIS – One year after his heart attack, John Felegian enjoys waking up.

“Now is very good,” he said.

Felegian is a self-proclaimed ‘outdoors guy’ who played racket ball and exercised all-out. After his heart attack, he thought 36 short sessions of cardiac rehabilitation would be a waste of time. Instead, he and his wife used the classes to change their lives.

“I was amazed at the benefit I received from cardiac rehab,” Felegian, 65, said. “That little bit of exercise – I never realized what the cumulative effect could be. The education was just as beneficial. I feel so much better. It’s given my wife and me a new normal.”

Together, the two have lost weight and regained their health. There’s a new energy they happily acknowledge as a positive byproduct of his illness.

One year after his heart attack, Felegian celebrated his good health by wearing his 28-year-old wedding suit to his friend’s wedding, because the suit fits again!

The year before his heart attack, Felegian was treated for cancer at the base of his tongue. After treatment, the tall, 240-pound, athletic business owner’s weight had dropped to 185 pounds and he was barely able to walk.

Then came the heart attack.

“When things were tough and my stamina was down, I recall being told, ‘This is temporary. You will feel better.’ Those words meant nothing. I didn’t comprehend it then, but I believe it now, and I want to encourage others who might be dealing with the same things,” he said.

Working Out, Eating Better

Cardiac rehab classes begin with monitored exercise for the first 40 minutes, said Jason Rose, exercise physiologist with the cardiac rehabilitation program at Cape Cod Hospital.

“Everyone’s blood pressure and weight are checked, then they are hooked up to a cardiac monitor, and a nurse watches vitals on a computer. Each patient’s program is tailored as they do 10 minutes per machine. Some days, we add weights for resistance training,” he said.

In addition, hospital personnel teach classes ranging from cardiac risk factors to exercise and diet.

“Patients who have the best results have a positive attitude and a great support system at home, like John,” he said.

For Felegian, cardiac rehabilitation didn’t end after his classes.

He and his wife both went on theWhole30® Program. For the first 30 days, the Whole30 requires nothing short of a nutrition revolution, but the rules are designed to help you restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract and more, according to their website.

“It means no dairy or grain. Instead of ice cream, we eat coconut milk. We snack on fruit, nuts and raw veggies, and the only alcohol we drink is some red wine. I thought I would miss my single malt scotch, but I honestly feel so much better I don’t even want to drink alcohol or have cheese, milk and pasta,” said Felegian.

His tip is to focus on the things you can eat, not the things you can’t.

“With the right diet and exercise, you begin feeling so much better that your focus changes. I’m amazed at how good I feel, and I’m grateful my wife and I accomplished this together,” said Felegian.

By BETH ANN LOMBARDI, Cape Cod Health News

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