Low Sodium Diet for Heart Disease: Bruce Simon’s story

Low Sodium Diet for Heart Disease: Bruce Simon’s story


My heart attack was unexpected. I ended up with a defibrillator pacemaker
and three stents, and ended up on nighttime oxygen, ’cause I could not breathe at night. I was a very sick man. Flight of stairs, by
the time I got to the top of the stairs, I was going (heavy breathing) like this. That’s
when my doctor suggested I be considered for a transplant. So she recommended Stanford. When I first saw him, we started the work-up
for transplant. When we did his ultrasound and echocardiogram, we could see that both
sides of the heart weren’t working well. And, on examination, he had way too much fluid
in his body, almost to the point where he was drowning. He lives in Montana, and he likes to go fishing
and go down the Smith River and go on raft trips. And his wife was so worried about him
that she would not let him go down the river, because he was so sick. We met with the doctors, and they said they
want to try some things first. And one of the things they wanted to try was to put me
on this diet. The cornerstone of therapy for our heart failure
patients is sodium restriction. We’ve seen that in our patients with heart failure who
are able to alter their diet, have a better response to medications. In addition, we tell
our patients to exercise at least thirty minutes a day, and there’s very good research to suggest
that patients who exercise with heart failure, have better outcomes than those who don’t. I thought they were nuts. I hadn’t used table
salt in over a year, I don’t have high blood pressure, but I recognized, I’m under the
care of some of the very best doctors in the world, maybe I should pay attention. So we
started immediately. Nothing out of a can, nothing out of a bag, nothing out of a box,
and no processed foods. And, within two to three weeks, I was able
to sleep through the night without oxygen. And so we made our return trip, met with the
doctors, and I underwent the final tests. We took him to the Catheterization Laboratory
and measured the pressures in his heart, and they were normal. So, that was already a dramatic
improvement. One of the tests was the bicycle test, and
they said, “Well, you did just a little bit too good on that bicycle test. and we’re not
going to put you on the list right now, we want you to come back in two months.” And
I came back in two months. And they said, “You don’t even look like the same guy.” Very early on, we saw the signs that his
heart was getting better. We repeated an echocardiogram and ultrasound of the heart, and we saw that
the right side of his heart, which was very big and not working well, because he was so
fluid overloaded, had now come back to normal. And what we found over time, is that we were
walking down his diuretic dose. That’s when we knew we were succeeding. I began to recognize, they’re not interested
in transplant for me at all. I’m very, very grateful to the people at Stanford,
without them, I may not even be sitting on this bench. They make you feel good, they
make you feel like, “I’m in a great place.” And it’s been just very powerful for me. Three to four months after we first saw him,
he was, again, rafting down the Smith River. The first trip, I was actually on the oars
for 34 of the 60 miles. The second trip, I took my own raft, and I rode almost the entire
trip, without any difficulty. And I feel great, and I just do about anything
I want. I’m doing wonderful. Eating carrots and celery is a whole lot better
than having a transplant.

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