Q. I am 53, 5 feet 5 inches tall and weigh 140 pounds. In 2004 I had a heart attack that affected more than one-third of my heart. I exercise, but is there anything else I can do to restore the dead heart muscle? I want to live for a long time. - Suzanne, Ontario, Canada
A. Most heart attacks injure, but may not kill, the affected muscle. The sooner the blocked artery is reopened, the less tissue will die. That's behind the push to get heart patients to the catheterization lab within 60 minutes after pain starts, as we do with more than 97 percent of patients at the Cleveland Clinic and are working hard to do at New York Presbyterian Hospital (our two main hospitals).
Injured tissue can be saved, but there's no way to bring dead muscle tissue back to life. But you can help the beat go on in your heart by following these ABCs:
Avoid cigarette smoke. There are more smoking-related deaths from heart disease every year than from lung cancer. If you or someone close to you needs help stubbing out that butt, check out our YOU Can Quit Smoking Center at RealAge.com.
Be active. A brisk 30-to-60-minute walk every day (no excuses!) will give your remaining heart muscle the workout it needs to stay healthy. It also will lower your blood pressure and lousy LDL cholesterol, raise your good HDL, strengthen your blood vessels and help keep your weight steady. Talk to your doc about an intensive lifestyle program to increase your chances of muscle recovery and pull plaque from your artery walls.
Choose good-for-you foods. Think colorful fruits and vegetables; whole grains, which contain heart-healthy fiber and magnesium; monounsaturated fats like those in olive and canola oils, avocados and walnuts; omega-3 fatty acids from salmon, trout and DHA omega-3 supplements; skinless poultry; high-fiber foods such as beans; a few servings of low- or no-fat dairy products a week; and a little red wine and an ounce of dark chocolate on most days. Your heart will love you. Keep sodium to less than 1,500 mg daily.
Q. I have fibromyalgia. What do you suggest for managing the headaches, muscle and joint pain, and other symptoms? -- Anonymous
A. When you hurt all over, are tired but can't sleep and are dotted with exquisitely sensitive "tender points," you need a multipronged relief plan. High on the list is breaking that pain cycle. That may help you sleep well, which will relieve your fatigue and help everything else. Here's what we suggest:
Find the right drugs AND nondrugs. Work with your doc to find medications that ease your pain and stiffness and help you sleep. This may take a little trial and error. We don't shy away from prescription meds here, but sometimes simple things work: Massage, yoga, relaxation exercises, applying cold or heat, aromatherapy, and acupuncture all have been shown to relieve fibromyalgia.
Stay active. Aerobic exercise for 30 minutes or more may help tender points and joint pain. We know it can hurt, it's exhausting and some days you'll feel like you can't. But studies show that people with fibromyalgia who do moderately intense daily workouts feel less like they've been run over by a truck. Getting moving also gives you a greater sense of well-being and control over your pain and helps you sleep.
Set up a nighttime routine. The same steps that lull a baby to sleep can help you: a regular bedtime, a relaxing ritual (a little night music, not a little nightcap, which can interfere with sleep); no stimulators (move the TV and laptop out of the bedroom); and a soothing room temp.
Q. I have all the symptoms of ovarian cancer, but when my doctor gave me the CA-125 blood test, it came back normal. Can I stop worrying? - Anonymous
A: Don't stop worrying so much as start being wise. It takes more than a single, normal cancer antigen-125 (CA-125) test to give you an all-clear for ovarian cancer. In fact, the test misses about half of early, treatable ovarian tumors. But no docs worth their salt rely on CA-125 to confirm cancer either, because so many other factors (including benign cysts or early pregnancy) can affect the ovaries in ways that push CA-125 above normal.
Several CA-125 tests done over time are more accurate than one, but they should be from the same manufacturer and be processed in the same lab. Even better: Have 1) a rectal-vaginal exam, which allows your gynecologist to feel your ovaries; and 2) a pelvic ultrasound. Notice we said "and." Since you have symptoms, these are not "either/or" exams for you. If either exam raises suspicions, don't be surprised if your doctor orders more tests, possibly even surgery.
The YOU Docs, Mike Roizen and Mehmet Oz, are authors of "YOU: Being Beautiful -- The Owner's Manual to Inner and Outer Beauty." To submit questions and find ways to grow younger and healthier, go to RealAge.com, the docs' online home.