Richy Feinberg has lived through two heart attacks and one quadruple-bypass surgery, but it wasn't until he joined a heart-health program in Tucson that Feinberg finally figured out how he could be truly healthy. The HEART Series Program from the Foundation for Cardiovascular Health covered expected topics—like diet and exercise—but also taught Feinberg about stress management and how to relax. There are two free informational meetings coming up about the program, on Aug. 9 and 13. For more information, call Feinberg at 797-2281, or visit www.hearthealthy.org/DiseaseReversal.htm.
How did you end up with coronary disease?
I guess it started (when I was) a very young person, with a Type A personality, eating the wrong foods and not exercising as I grew older. I didn't handle stress well. I took everything personally. Little things added up. My mother died of diabetes; my father died of a heart attack, and my brother died of cancer. My genealogy was not on my side.
When did you realize you had problems?
When I had my first heart attack in January 1993. A week later, I had an emergency quadruple-bypass surgery. Then two months later, I had another heart attack. ... That did me in. I couldn't go back to work. I was stressed out. I was in pain. My head wasn't working right, and I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't go back to work, and I was 58, so my daughters asked us to move to Arizona, where they were.
Was the move helpful?
Well, when we got here, I was determined to live and determined to make it work. This (HEART Series) program ... a good example is that I still eat a mostly vegetarian diet—about 95 percent vegetarian. In the beginning, I was so eager to do everything that was considered good for me, and a nonfat diet was thought to be the best, but I went overboard, and I couldn't get my cholesterol down eating absolutely no fats.
What did you learn?
I learned that we are not all cut from the same mold just because we all have heart disease. When I started to take fish oil and eat salmon a couple of days a week, all of a sudden, my ("good" cholesterol) went up. ... From the program, I was also doing other things—watching my diet, doing stress management, yoga and going to the health club. Group support is also important, too. I learned that just to be able to talk to people having your same problem can be helpful.
How does the program work?
The program is $300, but the presentations on Aug. 9 and 13 are free, where you can learn more about it. ... It's a 12-week program, three hours once a week, and there is a monumental amount of information that people are given covering all aspects on how you can turn your life around.
How is your health now?
I'm doing wonderful now. ... I adopted an attitude of gratitude. I'm happy every moment I wake up. I ran for Town Council in Oro Valley, and I started volunteering for the town, too. I had a one-man watercolor show. These are things I never would have done before. ... I always tell people that the two heart attacks I had are the best things that ever happened to me. But, look, can I tell you a story?
Two years ago, I came home one day from dinner, and I started to hemorrhage. It was kind of weird, and then I went to the hospital and continued to hemorrhage there. They flew me on a helicopter, and I was in intensive care. I was diagnosed with diverticulosis. They don't know how I got it. There was a time at the hospital when I groaned, and my eyes went in the back of my head; I turned white, and my wife freaked out. I don't know how much time had passed before I woke.
Did you recover?
Oh, yes. ... One of my friends saw me (afterward) and said to me, facetiously, "Richy, you take care of yourself, exercise, and look what happened to you." So I said to him, "You know what? You're asking the wrong question. Why not ask if I didn't exercise, didn't eat the right food, and didn't do all those things—maybe the end of this story would be a little different. Maybe I'd be pushing up roses." Sure, this happened to me, but it only makes me more motivated to keep doing what I'm doing, and I'm happy. That's part of what the program did for me.