The waves crash against the wharf in Port Morien, NS, as Weldon, 72, waits for his daughter Nancy to come back to shore. She is a fourth-generation fisher, following in her father’s footsteps.
Weldon would like to be out working alongside her but that was made impossible when he was diagnosed with heart disease 18 years ago. Now, his favourite thing to do is to spend time by the water with Nancy.
Weldon went to his doctor for a checkup after his brother passed away from a heart condition. They found an aortic aneurysm — a weak spot bulging on one of the arteries near his heart. Heart failure followed, then three years ago Weldon had surgery to replace a heart valve.
He has also been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. There is a strong connection between heart disease and diabetes. Having a family history of one puts you at risk for both conditions.
A new life
Diabetes and heart disease share many risk factors; being overweight, living a sedentary lifestyle and eating a poor diet. Developing healthy lifestyle habits can help minimize the risk of a cardiac event. Medication can also be prescribed, depending on the person’s circumstances.
Weldon’s lifestyle had to drastically change to keep both conditions in check. He stopped working which resulted in having to give up the family home. He now lives in a retirement community around the corner from Nancy.
To control his blood sugar, he has altered his diet by eating more vegetables, opting for leaner cuts of meat and cutting back on sweets. To keep active, most days he takes a walk, often down to meet Nancy’s boat when it returns to the wharf around midday.
If you get a handle on it, it can be managed. A good attitude is important.
From daughter to caregiver
Having a solid support system is a key part of managing any chronic condition. Weldon feels lucky that he has Nancy to rely on.
She plays an indispensable role in Weldon’s health management. Around her fishing shifts, which start before dawn, she finds time to check in on him daily, look after his medication, come to his appointments and do housework.
“Sometimes, I have to be the bad guy,” Nancy says. “Especially during surgery recovery; I have to make sure he keeps physically active despite being sore.”
“I wouldn’t be here without her,” Weldon says.
Having seen what her father and uncle have gone through, Nancy and her family doctor closely monitor her own diabetes and heart disease risk. “It’s always at the back of my mind.”
Being able to have open and honest conversations with someone you can depend on can make all the difference. Weldon and Nancy have each other and their tight knit community. They are also members of Heart & Stroke’s private Facebook groups. One is for people living with heart disease or stroke, and there is a separate group for caregivers like Nancy.
Learn more about heart disease.
Your top 3 questions about diabetes and heart disease answered.
Learn how to manage your medications.