Sandra Scott, PhD, DNP, MSN/Ed, RN

Nursing educator changes her lifestyle after open-heart surgery

4fac3229bbf071c84816900cc7b689bc-huge-saCan you imagine if you developed an illness and were given only a couple of weeks to live?

That’s what happened to Dr. Sandra Scott just two years ago. She was diagnosed with double pneumonia and heart failure. Open-heart surgery to replace her mitral valve ultimately saved her life.

The surgery also became the fuel to get her where she is today: living with a healthy, happy heart.

Sandra’s motivation to not just live, but live well, pushed her to alter her lifestyle for the better. Her first step was to change her diet. She lowered her fat intake and switched to a plant-based, vegan diet loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables. Over time, she switched to a pescatarian diet (which includes fish along with the fruits and vegetables) and limited her carbohydrates.

Sandra’s Nutrition Tricks
Temptation taunts all of us from time to time, and Sandra is no different. But when she gets the urge for a bowl of ice cream, she instead opts for another sweet treat: frozen grapes.

She also avoids sweetened beverages completely, instead opting for lemon water, which she believes has helped lower her blood pressure.

“What we put in our mouths is so important for the results we see in our body,” said Sandra. “Water, especially, is a must.”

A Change in Physical Activity
Aside from her diet, Sandra also became more physically active. Prior to heart surgery, she had difficulty doing daily tasks like walking up a flight of stairs, which left her gasping for air. She couldn’t walk far distances, had swelling in her legs, and had constantly elevated blood pressure.

After heart surgery, Sandra attended occupational therapy to learn healthy exercises for physical wellness. She wanted to be able to walk without getting short of breath. Overall, she wanted to feel healthier.

Today, Sandra has progressed to working out almost every day. Her go-to exercise is walking on her treadmill, which allows her to unwind. She also uses the stairs for stretching.

Her blood pressure, which had been running around 219/120, is now in the 130s/80. With help from her daughter, Sandra monitors her blood pressure every day to make sure it stays in a healthy range.   

A Focus on Mental Health
Despite all of these positive changes, Sandra still faced deep depression after undergoing heart surgery. But years later, after having faced it herself, she now advocates for others to learn about their own mental health. This includes understanding the signs and symptoms of depression, and the importance of talk therapy.

“Find a solution to improve your mental health, whether it’s exercising or taking up a hobby,” said Sandra. “Find a happy space and use it to help combat the depression or anxiety.”

Sandra’s Advice
As a nurse educator, Sandra understands the health and wellness challenges faced by nurses. Her advice:
  • Whatever you put into your body is the result you get out. If you eat a healthier diet, you will grow accustomed to it. Find recipes that use nutritious ingredients and herbs to enlighten your taste buds and keep you coming back for more.
  • You are in charge of your life and, to an extent, how long you live. Stay close to the healthier things in life to improve your quality of life.
  • Water is so important for your health. It’s crucial for skin but also your inner organs. Drinking enough water is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.

Sandra Scott, PhD, DNP, MSN/Ed, RN, is an adjunct professor at Herzing University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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Posted by Holly E Carpenter, RN, BSN on Sep 1, 2020 10:30 AM America/Chicago

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