Heart attacks can happen to anyone
One morning Rickey Roberts woke up and took his children to a sheep show in Oklahoma, that same night he underwent heart surgery at the Kansas Heart Hospital in Wichita.
“To this day, I still don’t why it happened,” Roberts, the K-State Research and Extension Agent for Marion County, said. “I thought I was a healthy guy. I didn’t drink or smoke, I didn’t think I was old, I didn’t have a family history of heart problems, and I thought I got enough exercise working on the farm.”
Roberts, then age 45, had a heart attack. He said the experience was a wake-up call and taught him a thing or two about healthy living.
“After the surgery I had a number of conversations with my medical team about diet and lifestyle,” he said. “I told my nurse straight out: ‘I am a meat-eater. I cannot live on salads and vegetables for the rest of my life.’ I learned there were other things I had to do to be healthier.”
Roberts said he set a goal of losing 20 pounds, and over several months went from 225 to 185 pounds.
“I did it with portion control and more exercise,” he said. “And the other thing was that I quit drinking soda pop entirely.”
He still ate hamburgers and steaks, but overcame the need to supersize everything.
“At first it was a mental thing,” he said. “I was feeling like I was still hungry but it didn’t take long for me to get to the point where my stomach didn’t bother me anymore. I really watched how much I ate and exercised more.”
Roberts said he was lucky because he his wife, Sonya, was very supportive and joined him in making healthier lifestyle changes.
“I thought running around with my job and working on the farm was enough exercise,” he said. “But my wife and I became very diligent about walking together every day.”
The Roberts’ walked three miles a day during the nicer months of the year, then walked on a treadmill in their home when it got colder outside.
“You have to have a place that works for you,” he said. “With my schedule, I just didn’t have time to go to a gym or a fitness club. I might want to walk at 10 o’clock at night. I do that on the treadmill in my bedroom now, and I can watch television at the same time.”
Roberts said eating less, walking more, and eliminating soda pop from his diet made a difference in more than just his weight.
“I became proud of myself,” he said. “I am just as ordinary as they come. I am nobody special. However, losing weight and getting fit made me feel like I have more energy. It made me feel proud to have to buy new jeans.”
Changes also took place in Roberts’ priorities. Prior to having a heart attack, he had never spent a day in the hospital, never took medication for anything, and took for granted time spent with the people he loved most.
“This whole thing was a slap in the face,” he said. “I’ve found now that sometimes I just don’t care about things related to my job as much as I used to. If one of my kids has a game, I make sure I leave soon enough to get there in time. I want to watch my kids grow up, and I guess I’ve learned there is no guarantee of that.”
Roberts said medical attention at the time of his heart attack alerted him to the fact that he was a borderline diabetic. Because of this, he has eliminated sweets from his diet. He had to get used to taking several types of medication as well, with the most important being blood thinners to prevent another heart attack.
While he may never know the reason why he had a heart attack over two years ago, Roberts said he does know how important it is to take care of himself.
“I am the kind of person that likes to have answers,” he said. “It’s what I do, find answers for other people. This heart attack left me with a lot of unanswered questions, but I do know that with portion control, eliminating soda pop, and exercising I was able to lose weight and become healthier in many ways. I know that is what I need to do from here on out.”