‘I am CardioSmart’ Contest Recognizes Minnesota Heart Failure Patient

Brenda Lubenow lives life to the fullest while battling heart failure

Contact: Nicole Napoli, nnapoli@acc.org, 202-375-6523

WASHINGTON (Feb 18, 2015) -

One night in June of 2003, Minnesota mother of two Brenda Lubenow woke up unable to catch her breath. After arriving at the emergency room, the then 30-year-old Lubenow was soon airlifted to the Mayo Clinic where she was diagnosed with heart failure, meaning her heart could not supply her body with enough blood.

Lubenow’s doctors found Lubenow’s heart muscle had become enlarged and weakened, a condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy, a common cause of heart failure. While in the hospital, Lubenow was also found to have ventricular tachycardia—a condition causing her heart to beat 30,000 extra times per day. When Lubenow returned home, she was unable to care for her children on her own and was exhausted after doing little tasks around the house. Fortunately, Lubenow had a strong support system that she credits with helping her change her diet and exercise habits as she worked to live life to the fullest.

“At the time, my biggest fear was not being around to watch my children grow up,” Lubenow said. “After my diagnosis, doctors couldn’t guarantee that my condition would improve or even what my life expectancy would be.”

Lubenow is being recognized by the American College of Cardiology’s “I am CardioSmart” contest for her inspiring lifestyle changes following her diagnosis. Lubenow is one of five heart disease patients being recognized during Hearth Month for living well with heart disease. She was chosen to represent heart failure, which refers to a number of conditions that impact the way the heart works and its structure, eventually making it difficult for the heart to pump enough blood and oxygen to meet the body’s needs.

Since that night in 2003, Lubenow has changed her diet and incorporated exercise into her routine. The entire Lubenow family cut salt intake and began eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. In a show of support, Lubenow’s extended family got involved by drinking more fluids, seeking out low sodium products at the grocery store, and learning to cook with less salt. Lubenow now cans her own salsa as store bought is often too high in sodium. While Lubenow wouldn’t describe herself has a “fan of exercise,” her determination to live a full life has led to changes in her approach to physical fitness. She goes on walks, visits the gym, and now thinks twice before using an elevator or driving somewhere close.

Lubenow credits her medical team and her family with providing the support she needs to stay positive. Her cardiologist, Martha Grogan, M.D., helped her understand the details of her condition — even when Lubenow saw other doctors — to help manage her condition. Grogan’s nurse was also available to answer questions Lubenow had along the way. In fact, it was Grogan and her staff that encouraged Lubenow to enter the “I am CardioSmart” contest by sharing about the lifestyle changes she made that allows her to live well with heart failure. 

“One of my biggest challenges is remaining positive. At the beginning, I was often scared and feared the worst. My family and my doctor, Martha Grogan, and her staff help me live life to the fullest. I am determined to do the things I enjoy and make memories with my kids,” Lubenow said. “Dr. Grogan and her staff have encouraged me, kept me focused, and celebrated all of my successes – big and small.”

Through lifestyle changes, a strong support system, and a positive attitude, Lubenow is an example to all – not just those with heart disease.

CardioSmart is the patient education and support program developed by the American College of Cardiology. Its mission is to engage, inform and empower patients to better prepare them to participate in their own care. In 2013, CardioSmart established a contest to find individuals who were living well with specific heart disease conditions: high blood pressure, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, previous heart attack or coronary artery disease, and showcase their stories to inspire other patients. www.cardiosmart.org, @CardioSmart, www.facebook.com/CardioSmart

Gerry Yumul of Victoria, Minnesota, was selected as the I am CardioSmart winner through voting on the CardioSmart Facebook page. Read his story on the CardioSmart website.

For more information on the symptoms and treatments for heart failure, visit www.cardiosmart.org/Heart-Conditions/Heart-Failure.

To read more about Brenda’s story, visit www.cardiosmart.org/Connect/Patient-Stories/Brenda-Lubenow.

The American College of Cardiology is a 49,000-member medical society that is the professional home for the entire cardiovascular care team. The mission of the College is to transform cardiovascular care and to improve heart health. The ACC leads in the formation of health policy, standards and guidelines. The College operates national registries to measure and improve care, provides professional medical education, disseminates cardiovascular research and bestows credentials upon cardiovascular specialists who meet stringent qualifications. For more information, visit acc.org.


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