Change of Heart About Diet, Exercise

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Dan Gaffney is often the talk of the town. Many people listen to the Milford native each morning on Delaware 105.9 FM. Besides his on-air time on 105.9, Gaffney also works at a radio station in Philadelphia on the weekends. If that’s not enough, he’s father to eight children between the ages of 3 and 27. Needless to say, Gaffney is a busy man. That’s one of the reasons he didn’t pay too much mind to some changes in his health.

“I remember feeling sluggish and winded,” said Gaffney. “I just attributed it to needing to lose weight and eat better.” The truth is the symptoms were signs of a more serious issue. While driving home from Philadelphia late one night in early March, Gaffney noticed chest pains. When it got worse he decided to stop at Bayhealth Hospital, Kent Campus to get checked out by the emergency department.

Gaffney admits driving himself to the emergency department may not have been the best idea. His cardiologist, Jennifer Eakin, DO, says it happens far too often. “We always tell our patients and their family members if anyone is having a heart event to call 911, especially if you are driving. Just pull over and make the call. The truth is, you can get sick very quickly. When you call 911, medical personnel can start intervening right away, when every minute matters.”

As soon as Gaffney arrived at the Emergency and Trauma Center, Kent Campus he was taken in for evaluation. “I have to say how impressed I was with the care I received,” said Gaffney. “I was taken right back and was undergoing tests within just minutes of arriving.” Gaffney’s medical team discovered he had one blockage and determined he needed a stent placed. After the procedure Gaffney was prescribed the typical medication regimen. The combination of the procedure and the medication made something click for the radio personality.

“I knew then that I wanted to make a lifestyle change to prevent this from ever happening again,” said Gaffney. That’s when he started a plant-based diet filled with fruits, vegetables and whole grains. He is diligent with his diet and incorporates exercise as well. In just a few months, Gaffney has dramatically improved his cholesterol and lost more than 40 pounds.

“The changes Dan has made have been remarkable,” said Dr. Eakin. “We’ve already adjusted his medications and dosages because of the changes he’s made. Dan is a great example for other patients to show that they can take their health into their own hands and prevent future cardiac issues.”

Gaffney says while he knew he had high cholesterol in the past, it was hard to do something about it. He just didn’t have the willpower to make a lasting change. After his heart attack, he knew what he needed to do. “I always knew how to eat well; I just struggled to do it. After my cardiac event, I was motivated. I didn’t find it hard to make the right choices,” said Gaffney. “As great as the care was, I don’t want to spend any more time in the hospital if I don’t have to.”

While most people expect chest pain or shortness of breath to be signs of heart trouble, Dr. Eakin says it’s not uncommon for fatigue to be an early symptom of heart problems. That’s why she stresses that all patients should have a primary care doctor to talk to about any changes or symptoms someone is experiencing. A primary care doctor can then refer patients for further testing like a stress test.

“We always strive for the preventive approach, but as humans in today’s world that can be hard,” said Dr. Eakin. “The truth of the matter is, when patients have a cardiac event and continue to live the same lifestyle without making any changes, it’s a matter of when — not if — they will have another cardiac event. The steps Dan has taken will ensure he stays heart-healthy.”

Gaffney admits he’s taking a new approach now to his health. In addition to his lifestyle changes, he sees Dr. Eakin for his regular heart checkups. “My biggest takeaway from this experience has been if you think something is wrong, follow your instincts. Don’t ignore the signs. Our natural tendency is to assume that any pain or body issue will go away, but many times it won’t. If you have any concerns, get care now.”

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