April 5, 2011 is a date that Chris Barritt will never forget – it’s the date he had open-heart surgery at Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital to remove a life-threatening tumor. However, that has not stopped him from living life to the fullest. Since his surgery, Chris has completed three Senior Olympics, four Sprint Triathlons, a 56-mile bicycle ride and a cross-country motorcycle trip. Chris remains dedicated to being physically active and staying motivated after his heart surgery

More than eight years ago, Chris was planning to embark on a 5,000-mile cross-country trip, when he started experiencing stroke-like symptoms. After being rushed to the hospital, doctors identified Chris had a heart tumor that would need to be surgically removed immediately. “I have always been a physically active person, but I didn’t exercise regularly. When I was diagnosed, it felt surreal,” said Chris. 

The care team at Washington Adventist Hospital, now Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center, made sure Chris would be able to return to his adventurous lifestyle in no time, and since then Chris’s adventures have continued! 

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Just last June, Chris, placed 14th out of 42 in his age group for a 5k Time Trial bike ride and 11th out of 41 in his age group for the 10k race at the National Senior Olympic Time Trials in Albuquerque. This past September, he won his second Silver Medal for the Maryland 5k Senior Olympic Time Trial.

When living with heart disease or recovering from surgery, it can be hard to make the necessary adjustments to the lifestyle you had before. “The first step is to simply recover, and the second is training yourself to become more active. After a hard workout, I feel great both physically and mentally,” said Chris. “Talk to your doctor about setting realistic fitness goals. It takes patience, so try to exercise with a friend or join a health club to keep you motivated.”

Chris continues to train with his bike trainer at home three times a week for 60 – 90 minutes and does an Interval Fitness class in the mornings twice a week. He intends to compete next spring in the Maryland Cycling Time Trials in order to qualify for the 2021 National Senior Olympic Games in Florida.

Whether you are a heart care patient or just want to be more physically active, Chris is a great example of how to live a heart-healthy life even after a major surgery. 

Take our free online Heart Risk Assessment during Heart Month this February for a chance to win a D.C. getaway.