Cardiac Athletes

Posted at: 02/25/2013 5:44 PM
Updated at: 03/06/2013 11:21 AM
By: Benita Zahn

Jack Berkery is the thousand mile man. Every year for 35 years he logs that many miles by putting one foot in front of the other- toeing a race line, most weekends.

" I've always been in shape. "

   You could say the same of Tony McManus, director of sales for Newschannel 13.  He's got 40 years of running under his belt, ever since his days on the junior high cross country team.

"I watch what I eat. I keep the weight off" says Tony.

   Same for Ed Salvo who rounds out this trio of runners.
   None of these guys know each other but they're bound by more than the miles they log.
They've all undergone heart surgery and are still pounding the pavement.
    Since he was 10 Jack knew he had a faulty aortic valve. It was replaced 21 years ago.
    Ed underwent valve replacement and 3 way bypass in October.
    For Tony it's been 2 years since he needed a stent to open a blocked artery.

"I remember it was New Year's i had a burning sensation in my chest and then I got pains down both arms" Tony explains.
   Another guy might have let things go with deadly consequences. But thanks to his years of running, Tony was attuned to his body and something was very wrong.
   Add that to an extensive family history of heart disease and his doctors pressed forward until they found the blocked artery.
   He was back running little more than a week after the procedure crediting his fast recovery to being in great shape thanks to running.
   Jack also credits his pre-surgery fitness to his recovery.

" One year after the surgery I was back running 9 or 10 miles again" Jack tells me.

     Ed just got clearance to pick up the pace and despite the long road to full speed, he's got his sites set on racing this fall.

"I was so well served going into this procedure because of those years of running, " says Ed. " You know, I might have died a long time ago. My dad was only 71. "

   And therein lies the heart of exercise. Even if trouble finds you, you're poised to manage the challenge better than those who are less fit.

" I think it's a prescription to find a way to get active and stay active because the more active you are I think the longer life and longevity, quality of life you're going to have" explains Dr. Henry DePan.

  DePan encourages his patients to resume an active lifestyle post surgery. It starts with cardiac rehab where your progress is monitored.
    Besides smoking, it's well known that obesity, diabetes and hypertension lead to heart disease.
    Exercise is can combat those culprits.
    But this trio was active, so what happened?
    As Dr. DePan points out,  there are other causes of heart disease, still being studied, including genetics - so anything that improves your cardio vascular system, like exercise, says DePan, is important.

" A lot of my business could go away if people lived a good lifestyle, if they took care of themselves, if they exercised, kept their weight down."

    You could call Jack, Tony and Ed cardiac athletes. In fact, Jack belongs to a group with that moniker. You can find them on Facebook.
    They meet at races around the country, swap stories and encourage others.  

Jack: " If you have your doubts today think 20 years from today. You'll erase your doubts. "

    Ed and Tony have done that- and remain focused on the 'road to health' in front of them.

Says Tony "It happened to me. I'm one of the lucky ones."