Phil: “Age is just about the only thing you can’t change”
As he approaches his 82nd birthday, Phil says his biggest enemy isn’t age, or illness, but deciding what to do with the rest of his life.
That may explain why he comes to work each day at the U-M Department of Psychiatry, where he leads a program that explores the intersection of the mental health and legal systems. He also serves on the hospital ethics committee, and chairs a state medical society committee.
This pace would be remarkable for anyone. But for Phil, it’s made even more so by the fact that he has coronary artery disease and high blood pressure — and has kept them in check for nearly 20 years. Through the power of prevention, and the support of U-M’s Preventive Cardiology team, he’s still going strong.
Phil’s first sign of trouble was a fainting spell at a conference in 1990, which turned out to be a “mini stroke” caused by narrowing of the arteries in his neck. An operation to re-open his carotid arteries put him back on track. But seven years later, he woke up with signs of another cardiovascular problem — this one in the blood vessels that feed his heart. It turned out to be a heart attack.
That event put his preventive efforts into high gear. Ever since, he has faithfully taken multiple medications and vitamins, watched his diet, and gone through all three phases of the U-M’s supervised exercise cardiac rehabilitation program. He’s kept up with regular diagnostic tests on his arteries and heart, worked with his doctors to fine-tune his medications, and gotten into a regular routine of brisk walking.
The result? “I’ve been remarkably free from symptoms,” he marvels. “Getting up in years isn’t as difficult today as it was years ago. In fact, age is just about the only thing you can’t change.”
Phil is just one of thousands of patients who credit U-M’s preventive services for helping them on the road to long-term cardiovascular health after a heart attack or stroke.
“I get a lot of reassurance from seeing my doctors regularly, and the nurses and exercise physiologists too. The whole team is full of very caring people,” he says. “That human connection is very important.”