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Dossier: Healthy heart

A new lease of life

Marcel Wunderlin, 62, suffered increasingly from the effects of cardiac insufficiency and obesity. With help from the Sanitas Care4Cardio health programme he managed to turn his life around, lose weight and reduce the risk to his heart.

Text: Susanne Wagner

During the Christmas holidays in 2016 Marcel Wunderlin had trouble putting on his ski boots. “My stomach was in the way,” he says, looking back. He’d also been worried for a long time by the fact that he had great difficulty breathing when walking uphill or cycling. When Sanitas contacted him after the Christmas break to ask whether he wanted to take part in the Care4Cardio health programme, he signed up immediately.

It wasn’t just being overweight that was causing his shortness of breath. He also suffers from cardiac insufficiency, with one side of his heart only working at 30%. As a result, Marcel was becoming increasingly inactive. He was fitted with a cardiac pacemaker nine years ago, followed by a pacemaker with built-in defibrillator four years later. The extra weight put extra strain on his heart: the heavier you are, the harder your heart has to work. Obesity also makes patients more susceptible to heart attacks and type 2 diabetes.

«The programme is simple and motivates me to stick with it. You’ve always got someone in your corner to keep you on track.»

Looking back, it’s clear that Marcel made the right decision in signing up for Care4Cardio. The programme helped him lose 15 kg. He’s now started playing tennis again, walks for hours, rides his bike and has completely changed his diet. “The programme is simple and motivates me to stick with it. You’ve always got someone in your corner to keep you on track.”

Daily weigh-ins on the electronic scales next to his bed provided an extra motivational kick. After standing on the scales he had to answer a few questions on a small screen about his general well-being, quality of sleep, breathing difficulties, tiredness in the morning, coughing or swollen legs. Every four weeks a health coach gave him a call with tips on how to further improve his lifestyle. If the scales showed Marcel had put on 2 kg, the coach was quick to contact him and ask why. “It’s important to know whether my legs are retaining water, because that can be dangerous for the heart,” says Marcel.

«My cardiologist is amazed at how much energy I have these days.»

His stomach is no longer pushing out, but instead has pushed off. Today he finds the physically demanding work expected of him in his job as a mechanical engineer much easier. Marcel is even fit enough to be able to tackle home improvement and gardening projects. “My cardiologist is amazed at how much energy I have these days.”