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Lori Cooper is CardioSmart

After being diagnosed with heart failure, Lori committed to the self-care strategy recommended by her doctor and to enjoying life to the fullest.

Lori Cooper has made several lifestyle changes after being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure in 2007.
Seen here with her family, Lori has hiked in numerous national parks and recently went zip lining in the Smoky Mountains.

Heart failure is a chronic disease ... but you can live a long and rewarding life. I am living proof of that.

Lori Cooper: Heart Failure patient

What is your CardioSmart story?

On August 23, 2007, my life changed forever. At 47 years old, I weighed a whopping 120 pounds, didn’t smoke and walked several miles a day, so I didn’t fit the bill for someone who would have heart disease. On that hot August day, I came home from work, lightheaded, coughing, sweating profusely and my heart was racing. My husband rushed me to Advocate BroMenn Medical Center where I was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure. My heart was severely enlarged and damaged, the valves were regurgitating blood and there was about 20 pounds of fluid around my heart and lungs. I was told I would likely need a defibrillator inserted near my heart and a heart transplant in the near future. This was the disease that killed my father and now it was about to kill me. Looking back several weeks, I experienced symptoms that were frantically waving red flags at me, but I ignored and blamed them on other things like the summer temperatures or pre-menopausal symptoms. I was too busy at work and at home with three daughters to be sick—an excuse too many women use. 

After my diagnosis, they brought in the man who would save my life, cardiologist Samir Shah, MD, FACC. I was told to live with heart failure I would need to go through some lifestyle changes. I was on a low salt diet, aggressive drug regime, and I started walking every day again. I gave up caffeine which was a daily staple of mine. I was actually starting to feel pretty darn good. After six months, in Feb. 2008, I was significantly improved. No need for a defibrillator and no heart transplant. Today, my future is bright and I feel better than I ever have. Heart failure is a chronic disease and there is no cure, but it is treatable, and you can live a long and rewarding life. I am living proof of that. I survived for a reason, and if by telling my story, someone will learn more about heart disease or I can help one patient or family member through their struggles of dealing with heart disease and the lifestyle changes it brings with it, then I feel like I have really done what I am here to do.

How did you work with your doctors and care team on your journey back to health after your heart failure diagnosis?

After I was released from the hospital, I was visiting my doctor several times a week to regulate medications. My doctor explained to me that my life depended on a “lifestyle change.” I would have to start taking daily medications, some which caused some very unpleasant side effects. I would have to have a low salt diet of 1200 mg or less, and I needed to continue to exercise (walk) every day. I have a complete yearly physical with my regular physician and Dr. Shah. I am always aware of my numbers and track them in order to report anything that stands out to my doctors. I weigh myself every day in order to watch for any sudden weight gain that could be associated with fluid around my heart or lungs. 

What other lifestyle changes did you make to improve your heart health?

Caffeinated drinks are out of my life, replaced with water and juice. I have hiked in numerous national parks and just zip lined in the Smoky Mountains for the first time. I also know this can happen again, and knowing the symptoms is the most critical part to staying alive.

Lori's Favorite CardioSmart Resources

Related

Exercise Benefits for Heart Failure Patients

Overall, exercise is safe and improves quality of life for heart failure patients.

Better Self-Care Reduces Stress in Heart Failure Patients

Why heart failure patients should adhere to treatment plans.

New Information Regarding Heart Failure with Preserved Ejection Fraction

Study identifies new possible causes of heart failure.

Noncardiac Dysfunction Increases Risk for Heart Failure

Abnormalities in organs like lungs and kidneys boots risk for heart failure by 30%.

Less Salt Intake Means Healthier Sleep for Heart Failure Patients

Increased sodium intake increases risk for sleep apnea in heart failure patients.