After a morning of light yard work in April this year, Danny Rivers felt dizzy and was sweating more than normally. He attributed it to the heat and took a shower to cool off. Upon exiting, he felt a tightness in his chest and a numbness in his arms, and these were the first signs Rivers was experiencing something more serious than heat exhaustion.
He was experiencing a heart attack -- the leading cause of death among people in Arkansas.
"Some people have asked me and I think it's important to know, prior to that I had no warning signs that I ignored. I think at a certain age you need to get tested for certain things. I turned 60 the first week of April, I knew that heart disease ran in the family. My dad passed of a heart attack, but he had three. After the first two he made no changes to his lifestyle or diet... I knew I wanted to get the tests run, it was on my list, " Rivers said.
Rivers called 911, then called his wife, who showed up before the ambulance could arrive, and started the drive to Medical Center of South Arkansas in El Dorado.
"It was a great time for a dad joke; I said, 'Patti, you have to slow down, you're going to give me a heart attack,'" he joked.
Despite the joking, Rivers had two Bible verses in his head through his ordeal: John 14, "Let not your heart be troubled" and Psalm 51:10, "Create in me a clean heart, o God."
After consulting with a cardiologist, Rivers discovered he had a 100% blockage in one artery, necessitating 3 stents be placed in his heart.
An athlete in high school, Rivers said that he is slowly recovering his endurance and plans to do a 5K at some point in the future.
He has also made changes to his diet, eating red meat only once a month and forgoing dishes like fried catfish, as well as forsaking dessert.
The CDC recommends the following activities to reduce the risk of a heart attack:
Choose healthy food and drinks
Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods. Eating lots of foods high in saturated fat and trans fat may contribute to heart disease. Eating foods high in fiber and low in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol can help prevent high cholesterol. Limiting salt (sodium) in your diet can also lower your blood pressure. Limiting sugar in your diet can lower your blood sugar level to prevent or help control diabetes.
Maintain a healthy weight
People with obesity have a higher risk for heart disease. Carrying extra weight can put extra stress on the heart and blood vessels.
Get regular physical activity
Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. For adults, the Surgeon General recommends two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking or bicycling, every week. Children and adolescents should get one hour of physical activity every day.
Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit.
According to the Mayo Clinic common heart attack signs and symptoms include:
n Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back
n Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain
n Shortness of breath
n Cold sweat
n Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness