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Quitters can win

Heart attack provides wake-up call,
forces 37-year-old to give up smoking
Raquel Richter never expected to hear she was suffering a heart attack at 37.

“I couldn’t breathe, and my arms went numb,” she said. “I had pain in my chest, but I didn’t associate any of it with a heart attack because I was so young.”

Fortunately, the Bismarck woman took her symptoms seriously and went immediately to the Sanford Health Emergency & Trauma Center. From there, she was taken to the cardiac catheterization lab, and a stent was inserted to open a coronary artery that had 99 percent blockage.

While Richter was young, she had major risk factors for heart disease. She was overweight, had uncontrolled diabetes and had smoked a pack of cigarettes daily for 19 years.

“I wasn’t doing anything I should have to prevent a heart attack,” she said.

In addition to smoking, Richter led a sedentary lifestyle combined with a daily diet of fast food and a six pack of sugared soft drinks.

There are a number of factors that increase the risk of having a heart attack, which includes making poor lifestyle choices.

The heart attack in December 2010 was a wake-up call Richter could not ignore.

“The doctors told me if I continued smoking, it would kill me,” she said. “I had no doubt in my mind I would quit. I wanted
 
To reduce her risk of suffering another heart attack, Raquel Richter quit smoking, started eating better and now exercises on a regular basis. She also now avoids places where she would be subjected to secondhand smoke.
to watch my sons grow up."

Smoking causes damage to artery lining throughout the entire body. The constriction of blood flow, along with an increased thickness of blood can create clots for those who smoke.

Richter was prescribed medication to help her quit smoking and reduce her risk of having another heart attack in the near future. She also did not have the option of smoking while hospitalized.

“It helped to be in the hospital during that first week, when it was hardest to not smoke,” she said. “My husband, Lyle, also stopped smoking, which made it easier for me to quit.”

It also meant she was not exposed to secondhand smoke.

Patients who have had heart attacks or other smoking-related problems must avoid secondhand smoke because it causes as much harm as if they were smoking themselves.

Richter has taken that advice to heart and does not put herself in situations where others
are smoking.

“I never realized the dangers of secondhand smoke until I had my heart attack,” she said. “I encourage everyone to find a reason to stop smoking and do whatever is necessary to quit.”

Dietitians provided education to help her manage her diabetes and make heart-healthy choices. She also exercises three times a week with fellow cardiac rehab patients, walks with her husband and spends more time playing outside with her sons, Reese, 1, and Ramsey, 11.

“There are only positives in my life because of what the doctors, dietitians and cardiac rehab staff have helped me to do,” she said. “I can’t say thank you enough to let these people know how much it meant to me and my family that they saved my life.”

Click here for more information on Sanford Cardiology department or call (701) 323-5202 to make an appointment.

 

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