February 3, 2021
In 2019, we shared the story of Joe Leone Introna. His worst fears of following a family history of heart-related deaths at a young age almost became reality, when at age 42, he was rushed to Jersey Shore University Medical Center with chest, arm and jaw pain.
Triple bypass surgery and cardiac rehabilitation saved his life and got this professional chef and local business owner on a new path for heart health.
We checked in with Joe recently, who provided some photos enjoying life with his son and carving a sculpture. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: How have you been feeling since your heart surgery at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in 2018?
A: So far, so good. I continue regular visits with my cardiologist, take medication to reduce my cholesterol, and I get necessary tests that the doctor recommends. When I first had the heart surgery, I clearly remember my doctors saying, “You don’t have a new heart. You have new valves and still need to take care of it, and keep the blood flowing.” I listened to that advice and have been committed to leading a healthier lifestyle ever since.
Q: What have you changed in your life to stay heart healthy?
A: About a year ago I decided to have gastric sleeve surgery. Even though I was doing the right things to be heart healthy, I still had some bad habits. Afterall, I’m an Italian American who is around food all the time! I was still overweight and struggled with self-control. I believe in the technology used for the sleeve surgery and it’s made a huge difference. I’ve lost a lot of weight – down to a weight I haven’t seen since high school – and I feel really good and have more energy now. It’s important to enjoy life and make healthy choices. I take my medication, exercise regularly, watch my sugar, and eat smaller quantities in moderation.
If you’re thinking about getting gastric sleeve surgery, or another weight loss surgery, consider attending a complimentary weight loss surgery webinar where you can learn about your options and hear from experts across Hackensack Meridian Health.
Q: How have you been keeping healthy during the pandemic?
A: I was really concerned when the pandemic started. I thought, “If I get this with my heart condition, what could happen to me?” I’ve been very careful to practice social distancing, handwashing, and wearing a mask. I have been mindful about my heart health as well. I walk my dog a lot, keep up my boxing in the basement instead of going to a gym, have been exercising with my son as he is training for the military, and I make sure that I stick to my diet. Mental health has been equally important, and my family has enjoyed spending more time together.
Q: What would you want people to learn from your experience?
A: Don’t sweat the small stuff! We all need to appreciate life more, enjoy every single minute and stay positive. And even though we are all dealing with COVID-19, people should know that there is no safer place to be than at a hospital or doctor’s office. If you are not feeling well or have a family history of heart problems, you need to take care of yourself.
Next Steps and Resources:
- Watch as Joe Leone Introna shares his story.
- Keep your heart health in check. Make an appointment with a primary care physician today.