As a former ballet dancer for many years who exercised vigorously, watched her weight and had healthy eating habits, Lynette Crane felt she was the “least likely candidate” for a heart attack. A psychologist by trade, she’d been a stress management expert for 30 years and even wrote a book on it.
However, in 2007, she found herself overwhelmed and under a tremendous amount of stress after several decades of being a caretaker for five different individuals with various challenges.
“I woke up, I was cold and clammy and dizzy, I knew … I just knew,” said Lynette, who was 70 at the time.
After being treated for her heart attack and receiving stents, Lynette wasn’t ready to admit that she had let severe stress get to her. So when she asked her doctor
why she had experienced a heart attack despite her professed healthy lifestyle, she was taken aback when the doctor replied that it was “just old age.”
“That was so depressing because I had never thought of myself as old up until then,” said Lynette. “It was a very bad thing for a doctor to say, which is why I switched to Dr. (Elizabeth) Grey, who is so wonderfully upbeat.”
Dr. Grey, a cardiologist at Minneapolis Heart Institute® and a researcher at Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation®, did some testing and discovered that Lynette had an inherited condition where she has a high level of Lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)] cholesterol. About one in five people have high levels of Lp(a) and most don’t know they have it. Unlike other types of cholesterol, healthy eating and activity or statins don’t help reduce it and other effective treatments are not yet known.
Lynette became involved with a women’s cardiac support group that existed at the time and found a lot of support from the other members and the inspiring speakers who presented on the latest cutting-edge research.
“I was all alone with my fear up until then, and my fear of Lp(a) slowly disappeared over the years as I realized it probably wasn’t going to kill me. There were things I could do.”
That meant learning to eat in a more balanced way, with more protein and fruits and vegetables, and cutting back on the carbs. And although she was a stress management expert, one of the most important things she did was learn to better manage her own stress. She had the opportunity to take a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class through the women’s support group and found it very impactful.
“I was just so immersed in learning it, and with some other learning from a book called The Time Paradox, I put them together, and it’s been life transforming,” said Lynette. “I just was able to switch the way I thought. You can’t believe how easily I say no to people now. All day long, I take little vacations and come back to the work, and somehow it all gets done anyway.”
Lynette said she’s really learned her lesson about taking care of herself and taking her own advice about managing stress to heart.
“The point I used to make to people was that really, nobody is immune (to stress) unless you really take charge of your life and pay attention,” said Lynette. “I’m very happy with my life.”
At the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, researchers continue to examine Lp(a), stress and ALL of the variables and interactions which conspire to cause heart disease.