At one time, Jeff Taylor, 59, would have made the cover of a health magazine. Taylor ran the New York City Marathon. He climbed a trail on the Grand Canyon. And the local gym was his second home. But he had a weakness for fast food.
All the Right Stuff, But …
By all outward measurements, Taylor, assistant district attorney at Ontario County, was the picture of health. He completed the New York City Marathon three times as part of a fundraising effort for the American Lung Association.
When the opportunity to become a Wellness Champion arose in early 2015, Taylor was a natural fit. And who could be better? After all, in April just a few months later, he breezed the Grand Canyon’s notorious Angel Bright Trail, an 18-mile round trip trail to the canyon floor and back up to the rim.
Four months later, on August 20, Taylor had a heart attack.
“I know I otherwise seem healthy, but my experience shows it can happen to anyone,” Taylor says.
So What Happened?
In Taylor’s case, genetics played a major role in his heart attack. His father, Ray, had also experienced a heart attack at age 59, Taylor’s current age, resulting in a triple bypass. Although Taylor was a marathoner, running did not protect him from suffering a heart attack.
And Taylor admits that even though he was in shape, his diet was not as good it should have been, with a twice-per-week indulgence in fast food meals. Even though he has cut back on the fast food, he still has “room for improvement,” he says.
In hindsight, however, Taylor says he had all the
warning signs of a heart attack. But since he never felt chest pain he rationalized each symptom away, failing to recognize what his body was desperately trying to tell him.
In the weeks leading up to Taylor’s heart attack, he never felt chest pain, but he did experience these other three heart-failure symptoms:
1. Shortness of breath. Taylor felt winded walking short distances. He knew something was up but thought perhaps he was fighting a cold. He says this went on for “weeks not months.”
2. Jaw pain. Taylor’s jaw pain was episodic. “I thought it was a tooth abscess,” he says.
3. Sense of dread. Taylor was plagued with low-level anxiety as if something terrible was going to happen.
The night of Taylor’s heart attack deviated from the stereotype as well—he still felt no chest pain. He had gone out to dinner with his younger son, Jason, 22, who is a personal trainer.
Taylor drank a margarita, and ate a cheeseburger and fried chicken. Taylor knows it wasn’t the meal that gave him the heart attack, as he had already been experiencing symptoms. Rather, he feels the junk food made him more vulnerable in his unknowingly fragile physical state.
Feeling sick and terrible, Taylor was rushed to Rochester General Hospital. The emergency room staff immediately issued a heart attack code and performed a routine angioplasty and stent. Because his heart attack was considered mild, Taylor was able to be released from the hospital 48 hours later.
Taylor’s story is a prime example of how a healthy lifestyle can save your life. While it didn’t stop Taylor’s heart attack, it certainly helped—his heart attack was classified as mild but only because he was so healthy.
Since his heart attack, Taylor has started eating healthier, and he travels. He traveled to Iceland, England, France and Italy, and has hiked from Yosemite Valley to the top of Half Dome and back in one day. He has plans to run in the 2017 NYC marathon.
“Without my health regimen I would have had my heart attack sooner,” Taylor says. “And it would probably have been fatal.”