VNA focuses on healthy hearts
Now 63, Onorato makes sure to exercise daily and watches his diet.
"It changed my life," he said.
Onorato recently talked about his lifestyle changes at the Bethel Senior Center , where nurses from the Bethel VNA offered free blood cholesterol screenings.
Mary Einzig , a registered nurse and the VNA's Community Programs Director said she hoped the clinics, which the VNA runs periodically, would attract more people because the month of February is widely publicized as Heart Disease Awareness Month. Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in America, according to the American Heart Association
During his screening, Onorato talked about some of the symptoms he felt when he had his heart attack in 1989.
"It almost felt like indigestion. I had a pain in the jaw, like a toothache," he said.
"That's a classic sign," said Einzig, who in addition to helping with the cholesterol screenings and checking blood pressure levels was there to give out information about preventing heart disease.
"It was a Friday," Onorato said. "After dinner, all of a sudden it felt like a gas bubble."
The next day he drove to his doctor, just minutes away from his home in Bethel.
The doctor gave him a cardiogram. "He said, I don't want to alarm you, but I think you're having a heart attack."
It turned out two of Onorato's arteries were blocked. He underwent angioplasty and had stents put in to keep the arteries open. He said he's felt fine ever since.
But finding out about the heart disease was a "frightening" revelation.
"Now I work out five times a week and I feel better today than I did 14 years ago," he said.
Einzig said she was talking to a cardiologist recently who said, "Heart disease is coming in second as the leading cause of mortality to cancer and it was the opposite last year. I'd like to think that's because some of this education is sinking in and people are making the necessary lifestyle changes."
Ted Taylor , a trim 69-year-old who had his cholesterol and blood pressure checked, knows he is in a "high risk" group both because of his age and because he has diabetes. That is why he pays attention to his health and has the screenings regularly.
"I've had myself checked since finding out I have adult onset diabetes 10 years ago," said the Bethel resident.
His doctors put him on cholesterol-lowering medication, and he urges other people to see their doctors to find out if they may be an increased risk for developing the disease.
Fortunately, he said, people seem to heed the warnings. The avid golfer, who walks a lot to keep in shape, said, "One thing that's changed significantly is people have dropped off smoking. By far, people in this age group are more active than they were 20 years ago and are concerned about their diet."
The nurses at the screening gave the people who attended information about risk factors and lifestyle changes.
Some of these include controlling cholesterol, losing weight and exercising.
"If they (have) frightening scores, we have a triage sheet with values and the action they should take. I've had people with blood pressures through the roof (in past clinics) and have had to recommend they see a doctor right away," Einzig said.
But some people, like Clarence Cyr , who had a heart attack eight months ago, seem to have no symptoms to alarm them.
"I didn't even know I had a heart attack," Cyr, 73, said. His was picked up by a doctor during a routine cardiogram.
Doctors performed angioplasty and stents were inserted in his two blocked arteries.
Looking back, Cyr said, "I was pretty healthy at the time," though he's made "slight changes."
"Mostly now I watch the fats," he said.