CardioSmart Corner | CardioSmart Showcases Individuals Living Well With Heart Disease

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Michael Melstad was born with a large ventricular septal defect and truncus arteriosus. While this condition can now be corrected at birth, the surgery was not available when Melstad was born and his parents were told he would not survive long-term. Against all odds, Melstad is alive and well at the age of 64, managing his own accounting and tax preparation business and spending his free time reading books, doing some traveling and enjoying music. Melstad’s incredible story has led the ACC to recognize him as one of five winners of its annual “I am CardioSmart” contest.

The other CardioSmart winners are just as inspirational. A little more than a year after having a heart transplant, Melissa Cappuccilli ran her first half-marathon. Today, she is working to inspire other women to protect their heart. Jared Blitz was born with aortic valve stenosis and endured open-heart surgery to replace the valve at 17. He recovered well enough to play tennis at the collegiate level while earning a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology with an emphasis in cardiac exercise. After exploring work in the field of cardiac rehabilitation, he switched to teaching courses in health and exercise science at a community college, while pursuing his own graduate degree. His attention has now turned to public health, specifically preventing and treating chronic disease through fitness.

Learning familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) runs in your family can be daunting, but Kathleen Thompson is overcoming the odds. Even though she was treated throughout her life with various cholesterol-lowering medications, she ended up having a mild heart attack and undergoing quadruple bypass surgery last year at the age of 54. She has subsequently met others living with FH and is learning how to effectively advocate for herself. Collette Sroka was born with transposition of the great arteries, but never viewed herself as much different from anyone else. However, the “I am CardioSmart” contest made her think about what she has accomplished and that just by taking care of herself, she is living well.

It’s not easy living with heart disease, but each of these individuals aren’t just living, they are living well. Being active, eating healthy, taking medications and visiting the cardiologist regularly are keys to their success. In many cases, they have also found support from others living with the same disease or risk factors. As we celebrate Heart Month this February, I am proud to celebrate Michael, Melissa, Jared, Kathleen, Collette and so many others like them. They are why I go to work every day. Visit to read more about each of the “I Am CardioSmart” winners.

Clinical Topics: Cardiac Surgery, Congenital Heart Disease and Pediatric Cardiology, Diabetes and Cardiometabolic Disease, Dyslipidemia, Invasive Cardiovascular Angiography and Intervention, Prevention, Sports and Exercise Cardiology, Valvular Heart Disease, Aortic Surgery, Cardiac Surgery and CHD and Pediatrics, Cardiac Surgery and Heart Failure, Cardiac Surgery and VHD, Congenital Heart Disease, CHD and Pediatrics and Interventions, CHD and Pediatrics and Prevention, CHD and Pediatrics and Quality Improvement, Lipid Metabolism, Nonstatins, Primary Hyperlipidemia, Heart Transplant, Interventions and Structural Heart Disease, Exercise, Sports and Exercise and Congenital Heart Disease and Pediatric Cardiology

Keywords: ACC Publications, Cardiology Magazine, ACC18, ACC Annual Scientific Session, Hyperlipoproteinemia Type II, Truncus Arteriosus, Cardiac Rehabilitation, Risk Factors, Public Health, Heart Septal Defects, Ventricular, Truncus Arteriosus, Persistent, Transposition of Great Vessels, Running, Myocardial Infarction, Heart Transplantation, Chronic Disease, Aortic Valve Stenosis, Cholesterol, Arteries

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