When it comes to farm equipment, Lynn Niemann, of Crystal, N.D., has a general rule of thumb: Take good care of it before it breaks, and if it’s already broken, fix it. Lynn took a similar approach to his health this summer.
The oldest brother of five siblings, Lynn suddenly lost his two younger brothers at the ages of 37 and 48, both to vascular-related disease. After the second family loss this spring, and struggling to get his own blood pressure under control, Lynn scheduled an appointment with Altru cardiologist, Dr. Rabeea Aboufakher. Even though it was May, one of the busiest seasons for farmers, he knew this was his top priority.
Lynn and his wife, Annette, met with Dr. Aboufakher for a full examination, where he detected a slight heart murmur. He reassured the Niemanns that the murmur was faint but, because of family history, ordered an electrocardiogram (EKG) to check Lynn’s heart’s electrical activity. Everything checked out fine, and Dr. Aboufakher referred Lynn to Altru’s Dr. Keith Swanson, vascular medicine.
Next, Lynn underwent lab work and a series of painless vascular screenings and ultrasound, focused on the neck and ankles, to check for blood clots throughout his body. While there were no signs of blood clots, Lynn discovered he has a slight vascular disease, as lab results detected a heterozygous gene that would’ve been passed down from one parent.
As an educator, Lynn’s wife, Annette, was impressed with the time Dr. Swanson spent educating them about the potential risks of blood thinner medication versus living with low-risk vascular disease. “Both doctors were so thorough at explaining the purpose of each test, talking through the risks and promoting prevention with healthy choices,” explains Annette. “They were personable, friendly and understanding of our concerns.”
Prevention for the Future
Because of previous leg swelling, Lynn wasn’t surprised with the diagnosis, and he keeps a positive attitude.
“I wanted to know what was going on,” explains Lynn. “If they did find a problem, I’d rather know and do something about it.”
Dr. Swanson recommended maintaining a healthy lifestyle through weight control, regular activity, eating right and wearing graduated compression garments. Lynn now wears compression stockings every day to prevent swelling and discoloration, and he continues to take his blood pressure medication regularly.
After losing about 20 pounds in the last year, Lynn’s goal is to maintain his weight loss by watching his diet and staying as active as possible. While he used to grab a pop and candy bar for the tractor, he’s now munching on almonds, dried cranberries and unsweetened iced tea during harvest.
“Jumping on and off the tractor keeps me moving throughout the day,” he explains. “I try to get out and walk as much as I can.”
Similar to maintaining his farm equipment, Lynn believes in keeping his one and only body as healthy as possible. He continues, “If you can prevent something bad from happening, why not do it? I want to see my grandchildren grow up for as long as I can.”
With the help of Drs. Aboufakher and Swanson, when the small town family farmer celebrated his 60th birthday this fall, he could rest assured his heart and vascular health was in good shape.
Altru’s Vascular Medicine specializes in the diagnosis and comprehensive treatment of vascular diseases of the circulatory system. For more information about Altru’s Vascular Medicine, schedule an appointment through MyHealth, or call 701.780.6400.