How Kevin Sanders’ Fitbit Helped Him Survive a “Widowmaker” Heart Attack

how-kevin-sanders’-fitbit-helped-him-survive-a-“widowmaker”-heart-attack

About a year ago, I was working in the yard doing some hedge trimming when an unusual feeling of weakness came over me. I thought at first that I had just overdone it, so I decided to stop, take a shower, and cool down. I felt better for a little while, but then the feeling returned, and I decided to relax on my bed. When I looked at my Versa 2 I noticed that my heart rate was around 80, which is above my usual resting heart rate. 

I wasn’t immediately concerned, but when I looked a few minutes later, my pulse had risen to around 120. I thought, ‘Well, that is unusual for me to have my heart rate going up while I was cooling down after exercise.’ I told my wife I was getting some data from my Fitbit that was concerning.  

Changes in health are easy to ignore. Men can be particularly stubborn, even to the point of denial. I’m 63, but I work out on an elliptical machine every morning, and my usual resting heart rate is in the low 60s. I considered myself in perfect health, and the data I was getting on my Fitbit usually confirmed that belief. But now it was telling me something different. When my heart rate continued to rise into the 130s, we decided that it was time for me to take some aspirin and for my wife to drive to the emergency room. 

I’ve had a Fitbit for 4 years, and I’ve really enjoyed the feedback and insights it gives me about my health and fitness. I track my exercise and Active Zone Minutes, as well as my sleep and heart rate. When you follow all those measurements over time, you get a clear idea of where your baseline ranges are. From that knowledge base, you can recognize anomalies—where something isn’t right or that you are beginning to trend in the wrong direction. That is what convinced me to take notice that day. My Fitbit data told me that something unusual was happening. 

When we were pulling into the emergency room parking lot, I felt a contraction in my chest and a wave of intense pain. Still, I was able to walk into the emergency room. Within a couple of minutes, they had me hooked up on IVs and stabilizing my condition. Then I was rushed to the catheter lab for an emergency procedure, where doctors placed a stent to resume blood flow to my aortic artery. They later told me that I had what is referred to as a “widowmaker” heart attack. 

It was a scary experience for myself and my wife, but maybe most of all for my two teenage daughters. I believe noticing the changes in my Fitbit data and acting on it was a crucial factor in surviving this heart attack, which helped me make the right decision to go to the ER. I trusted the information because my Fitbit had already become my partner in monitoring my health. In my family, we are all proud Fitbit wearers. 

When my doctors did an ultrasound of my heart, they showed me a small gray area that was damaged when the blood circulation was restricted. During heart attacks, every minute counts in terms of the permanent harm done. Because I received treatment so quickly, my heart stayed relatively healthy.  

It’s been a year, and my Fitbit has been a critical part of my rehabilitation. It helped me get back to my regular exercise routine. This morning, I did five miles on the elliptical at a seven-minute mile pace, and I feel healthier than before my heart attack. I’m back on top of my game. 

As told to Ethan Watters

The post How Kevin Sanders’ Fitbit Helped Him Survive a “Widowmaker” Heart Attack appeared first on Fitbit Blog.

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