Joel Johns: When You Get a Wake-Up Call to Improve Your Health, Take a Nap

Heart health
Success Stories
October 14, 2021

In 2013, a 48-year-old man collapsed during his commute, fell into a coma, and woke to realize he needed to make a change. Meet him and hear how he recovered with the help of the Withings app, his “companion to better health.”

At 56, Joel Johns, a financial analyst in Paris, has come a long way. Eight years ago, while taking the train at the Gare Montparnasse to make the one-hour journey home, he suddenly collapsed on the platform. He was resuscitated by emergency services and then transferred, in a coma, to the Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Paris, where he underwent open heart surgery to be fitted with a pacemaker. After 20 days in a coma, he woke up. To learn that he needed a transplant to replace the damaged part of his heart, and clearly understood that he also needed to change his life.

The importance of sleep

When he talks about his story, Joel remembers: “Before my heart attack, I had a very busy job. I could work up to 20 hours a day so I had little sleep and a deplorable lifestyle.” Doctors warned Joel about his slightly elevated blood pressure despite a healthy body mass index, but he wasn’t really concerned. “Since I didn’t have daily measurements, I quickly forgot about the numbers and the danger that high blood pressure could cause.”

At the hospital, doctors warn Joel. “They were very firm. 3-4 hours of sleep a night is not enough. You must sleep at least 7 hours a night to give your body time to rest and regenerate. And that’s what I’m doing now, I have sleep scores of 85/90 and I’m feeling the benefits.”

Professor Escourrou, a cardiologist specializing in sleep, adds: “When we talk about cardiovascular health we first think of diet and activity, but sleep is just as important. What counts is to have a healthy lifestyle, in a global way. Sleep is often less considered, yet it is essential to take care of it. Sleep should be of sufficient duration—approximately 7 to 8 hours per day for an adult—and regular throughout the week.”

A companion to remember to sleep

Obviously, it’s not so easy to get more sleep than usual. But, supported by his wife, children, and family, Joel has put in place several methods to improve his sleep. First, he bought a Steel HR watch, “It allows me to know my heart rate and analyze my sleep. I look at my report every day when I wake up. It’s a good thing I have this tool to give me feedback on how well I’m sleeping because I think otherwise I would have a hard time realizing I’m not getting enough sleep. It allows me to be vigilant without worrying. I just take note of the information.”

Passionate and immersed in his work, Joel regularly forgot to go to bed and he says the Withings app has been a great ally: “I set reminders that alert me to go to sleep and I try to be more attentive. When I see it’s a little late, I go to bed.”

Finally, the lockdowns and widespread telecommuting brought on by the pandemic has allowed Joel to find a more regular rhythm: “Before, I thought sleeping was a waste of time. Today, when fatigue catches up with me, I listen to it. Sometimes I even take micro-naps during the day.”

A little extra help

To take care of himself, Joel also relies on his step count to ensure he’s active enough, and uses his Withings app in conjunction with My Fitness Pal to regulate his salt intake, as recommended by his doctors.

Joel also regularly shares his blood pressure log with his cardiologist as part of his medical monitoring. “The information is relevant enough for her, although it’s very succinct and understandable. Me, I look at the app every day and I find a number of indicators and the information that I need.”

Many thanks to Joel for his health tracking, his commitment to lifestyle changes, and his story which can inspire others to take control of their health for themselves—and for the people they love.