Preventing heart disease with each step
When George Balabushka suffered a heart attacked at age 33, he was in disbelief. Like many healthy military men, George never thought heart disease could happen to him.
“I had tightness in my chest for several days and decided to pay a visit to the Naval Hospital,” says Balabushka. “After an EKG test on the treadmill, I collapsed into full cardiac arrest for four minutes.”
Two days later he awoke in the intensive care unit with eight burn marks down his chest where doctors had placed the defibrillator to revive his heart.
“I was an active young man in the Navy,” he says. “I was in complete shock this could happen to me.”
After being placed on limited duty with a desk job ashore for months, he was offered sea duty on a new Naval ship in Charleston. Nearly five years and two tours after his first heart attack, Balabushka retired from the Navy.
“I was excited to retire after a 22 year career,” he says. “I sure didn’t expect to experience a second heart attack shortly after.”
Balabushka felt afraid and vulnerable after his second heart attack in 1999. He thought he was doing enough to prevent a second experience, but he was wrong. His surgery – six-way bypass.
“I can’t stress the importance of making significant lifestyle changes after suffering a heart attack,” says cardiologist, Dr. Pamela Morris, MUSC Heart and Vascular Center.
“Physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your heart health.”
According to the American Heart Association, walking for as few as 30 minutes a day provides heart health benefits as well as increasing two hours of life expectancy for every hour of walking.
“A sedentary lifestyle increases the chance of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and therefore, heart disease and stroke,” says Dr. Morris.
George knew that he had to make some serious changes in his lifestyle. He began to find new ways to be physically active.
“I’ve learned that walking is an absolute necessity for my health,” says George. “I may not have always been the best role model for exercise, but lately there’s been a big improvement.”
Balabushka, his wife, Carol, and special needs step-son, Jason, will walk in this year’s Lowcountry Heart Walk.
“Due to some of Jason’s physical limitations, the full three mile walk may be too much for him,” Balabushka says. “He really enjoys walking with me, and its great exercise for him too.”
Balabushka hopes to help prevent heart disease in the community, and advises friends and family to learn their numbers and commit to making changes to reduce their risk.
To learn more about the Lowcountry Heart Walk visit www.lowcountryscheartwalk.org or call 843-853-1597.