Minnesota Man Recognized by ‘I am CardioSmart’ Contest

Marcus McCleery turned to diet, exercise after life-saving heart surgery

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

WASHINGTON (Feb. 20, 2014) — For Marcus McCleery exercise was a four-letter word. He suffered from atrial fibrillation and weighed nearly 400 pounds, largely due to his heart condition making it difficult to be active. After two surgeries in two years to treat his heart disease, McCleery began the long and sometimes difficult journey of keeping his newly repaired heart in top shape through diet and exercise, culminating in a 183 pound weight loss.

“Because of my atrial fibrillation, my energy was low, I was tired all the time and I used food to comfort my plight,” McCleery said. “I struggled with my fitness and weight all of my adult life.”

McCleery, who is from New London, Minn., is being recognized by the American College of Cardiology’s “I am CardioSmart” contest for his inspiring lifestyle shift after being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. McCleery is one of five heart disease patients being recognized during Heart Month for living well with heart disease.

Atrial fibrillation, or Afib, is a heart condition that causes problems with the rate or rhythm of a person’s heartbeat. It results in a chaotic, rapid heart rate that can cause shortness of breath, dizziness and extreme fatigue.

Afib can be dangerous if left untreated. An unsteady heart rhythm can cause blood to collect in the heart chambers and increase a person’s risk for blood clots, which in turn can travel to the brain and cause a stroke. Afib can also lead to heart failure.

McCleery spent months experiencing episodes of dizziness, breathlessness and increasing overall weakness before his Afib was diagnosed. He went to several doctors who performed numerous tests and found nothing wrong. Eventually he was given a heart monitor, which helped to diagnose his heart disease.

“Atrial fibrillation can be a very serious heart condition, but it is treatable if diagnosed,” said CardioSmart.org Chief Medical Expert JoAnne Foody, MD, FACC. “Marcus was persistent in seeking care for his symptoms and in the end was diagnosed and treated for his heart disease. His story is an excellent example of knowing your body and communicating your concerns with your doctor.”

McCleery was referred to a cardiologist who recommended a catheter ablation, which uses wires inserted into blood vessels to destroy small pieces of heart tissue that are causing the rhythm disturbances. The first procedure was partially successful and he ended up undergoing a second treatment a year later to fully correct his Afib.

“When the doctor told me the treatment was a success and I could continue my life with no restrictions, I asked him if he was telling me to lose weight,” McCleery said. “He said ‘no, I am just asking you to move 15 minutes a day.’ I decided I could do that and began a journey that has opened up a whole new world for me.”

Through diet and exercise, McCleery has lost 183 pounds and kept his heart healthy. He now competes in triathlons, duathlons and running events sponsored by the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, for which he also volunteers.

He also created a website, www.move15minutesaday.com, to share his heart health story with others.

“It has been a blessing to meet others who are also living with heart disease,” he said. “We only get one body in this lifetime, let’s care for it, feed it well and use it.”

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.

David Wang of Boston was the overall winner, through voting on the CardioSmart Facebook page. Read his story on the CardioSmart website.

For more information on symptoms and treatments for atrial fibrillation, visit www.cardiosmart.org/Heart-Conditions/Atrial-Fibrillation .

The mission of the American College of Cardiology is to transform cardiovascular care and improve heart health. The College is a 47,000-member medical society comprised of physicians, surgeons, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists and practice managers. The College is a leader in the formulation of health policy, standards and guidelines. The ACC provides professional education, operates national registries to measure and improve quality of care, disseminates cardiovascular research, and bestows credentials upon cardiovascular specialists who meet stringent qualifications. For more information, visit www.cardiosource.org/ACC.


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