Listen to your cardiologist now so you don’t flatline later, a survivor’s story

One of my strongest motivations for writing Optimize Your Heart was to remind everyone that you are never too young to start thinking about your heart health. In fact, sometimes the warning signs can come so early that they can easily be dismissed because, well, you’re too young for it to be anything serious, right?

Dean S. was in excellent shape (a former competitive swimmer in college) yet started having warning signs at the age of 30. He recently bought my book and shared his personal story with me. With his permission, I am sharing it with you.


“Nobody has a perfect heart. Most people don’t find out what’s wrong with theirs until something bad happens. You’re one of the lucky ones!”

That was my cardiologist.

I was 30 years old, in great physical shape, with no medical history that would indicate I was anything but a normal, healthy person. But there I was, talking to a cardiologist about fainting spells that had sporadically occurred since I was young.

heart flatlineTurns out I had vasovagal syncope hardwired into my heart – a condition that had gone undiagnosed until that point and a condition that made me a ticking time bomb. One day, because of it, he told me I would need a pacemaker. As a cocky 30-year-old, I refused to believe that, until one night, years later, when I went to the emergency room with chest pains. As I lay on a bed in one of the bays, an EKG operator on one side and a nurse on the other, I looked at my wife and said “I’m gonna pass out”.

What ensued after that (I am told) was 2 minutes of total chaos.

“Code blue” was yelled and immediately my bay was filled with a gang of medical professionals. I had flatlined and was brought back when an impatient nurse punched me in the chest. He later told me “You call for the paddles, but you don’t wait for the paddles.”

After this incident, my cardiologist said “I think it’s time for that pacemaker. How many times do you want to roll the dice the next time this happens?” His prognosis from 15 years earlier had become a reality. Today, I live a completely normal life, with a pacemaker, I never notice, as my safety net to a more managed and preemptive lifestyle. I am truly one of the lucky ones.

So, I ask you, what’s wrong with your heart? What are you doing to ‘prehabilitate’ (Andy’s term from “Optimize Your Heart”) yourself? “Optimize Your Heart” is a practical guide to proactively and preventively minimize your risk for heart attack and stroke. Whether you have the risk factors, or like me, show no predispositions, prevention is the best remedy and this book will get you started.

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