Katy woman cuts down on salt, loses 109 pounds

KATY, Texas (KTRK) -- We all know what we eat can affect our health, but a Katy woman learned this the hard way. After a health scare in March of 2016 landed Kathleen Wilburn in the emergency room, she ended up in the hospital in serious condition.

"I had a lot of coughing. I was having trouble sleeping," says Wilburn.

Wilburn learned she had congestive heart failure.

"When they told me my heart function was 10 percent, I was 66 years old. I thought, 'I haven't seen any grandchildren yet,' and I really wanted to do that," recalls Wilburn.

Wilburn was ready to fight. Her doctors tried several times to shock her heart into a normal rhythm, and it didn't work.

'"I needed to have some fluid taken off, so I lost about 25 pounds in the hospital in the first five days. They wanted me to get rid of the fluid because I had so much fluid around my heart," recalls Wilburn.

After losing the fluid, doctors performed a pulmonary ablation.

"What you do is you essentially burn around those structures. And when we did, that we were able to get her into a normal rhythm," explains Dr. Sunil Reddy with Memorial Hermann Katy, Memorial City and UTHealth.

He says her weight and her salt intake could have lead to heart failure.

"One of the main things salt does is retain water, and it drives up your blood pressure as a result of that. Similarly, it can worsen someone's heart failure. The HACDC recommends no more than 2300 mg of salt a day. Ideally, it should be no more than 1500 mg of salt per day. It's basically no more than one teaspoon of salt a day," says Dr. Reddy.

Wilburn learned to read labels and cut out processed food. Just three months later, her heart function was over 50 percent and she could start exercising.

"I started walking 15 minutes a day and each week I started adding five minutes," says Wilburn.

A year later, Wilburn's lost 109 pounds, feels so much better and is looking forward to a healthy and happy future as a grandma.

"My daughter is pregnant. In January, I hope to have my first grandchild," says Wilburn.

Wilburn also has a good tidbit of advice. She says most salt is in processed, pre-made and restaurant food. She says not to be shy about asking the chef at a restaurant to cook your meal without salt. She says they're usually very accommodating.

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