by Sasha Reddy
Ritesh Gupta’s health journey didn’t kickstart until last summer. He broke his foot during the 2021 holiday season, leading to months of slow weight gain while he was off his feet recovering. When he was up and moving, he relied heavily on his good leg to overcompensate for the injured one and often became sore quickly. Making exercise with his wife a routine not only helped Ritesh regain his strength and lose over 30 pounds but also triggered a domino effect that would literally save his life.
In July of 2022, Tanuja Gupta, Ritesh’s wife, proposed that the two head into HAC together to work out. Tanuja is an avid Myzone user and offered to lend her husband her spare Myzone pod for their session. He eventually got his own pod and began wearing it with each trip to the gym, collecting heart rate data from every session. Quickly, a trend in the data emerged.
“I used to notice that I was always in the yellow and in the red zones,” Ritesh says. Sometimes, he’d even overhear other members commenting about his heart rate, displayed on screens throughout the building. Every week, Myzone would alert Ritesh to let him know that his max heart rate had been re-calculated; some weeks, it would jump five points, other six or seven. While the numbers were high for the workouts he was performing, he didn’t see an immediate cause for concern. “I’m just out of shape,” he remembers thinking. “That’s what’s going to happen.”
The Myzone Belt measures heart rate during exercise, calculating the wearer’s beats per minute (BPM) as a percentage of their max heart rate (MHR). It outlines different heart rate “zones” using this color-coded system:
- Gray zone = 50-59% of MHR
- Blue zone = 60-69% of MHR
- Green zone = 70-79% of MHR
- Yellow zone = 80-89% of MHR
- Red zone = 90-100% of MHR
Still, Tanuja was worried. Veering on the side of caution, she scheduled a stress test for her husband, but the couple otherwise continued their business as usual.
Ritesh went in for his assessment shortly after his 45th birthday on Friday, September 10th. Though the doctor immediately urged him to come in for a follow-up on Monday, as fate would have it, he would not make it to the second appointment.
Over the weekend, Ritesh stopped by HAC for a few miles on the treadmill and an upper-body strength session, his usual routine. Tanuja was out of town for business at the time. Though Ritesh was now used to seeing lots of yellows and reds on his Myzone app, this day was different. About an hour into the workout, his heart rate sat firmly at a whopping 238 BPM – far above where it should have been.
“I’m not going to lie,” Ritesh admits, “I was definitely reluctant to say that something was wrong.” Even as dizziness began to set in, he was convinced that he simply needed to relax and wait it out. But after sitting for over 20 minutes, his heart rate had barely budged, still raging at 234 BPM. Ritesh began calling and texting friends, including Dr. Mustafa A. Mufti at Christiana, who instructed him to head to the hospital right away. Another friend, Ashu, stopped by to drive him to the emergency room.
Ritesh’s heart rate was still above 230 an hour after he began feeling off. When he arrived at Christiana, doctors flocked to his room and began administering nitroglycerin tablets to relax his blood vessels and slow the beating in his chest. “Nothing would work,” Ritesh sighs. “It wasn’t going down.” Though the weight of the situation hadn’t sunk in yet, Ritesh was beginning to think about his family, who were still in the dark. “My wife is in Colorado, my kids are at home, my dad is flying back from India the same day,” he thought. The last thing he wanted was to worry them.
Many hours and several scans later, the results were in: one of Ritesh’s coronary arteries was obstructed entirely and required a stent immediately. Two other blood vessels were mostly blocked but could not undergo surgery because of Ritesh’s high calcium levels. “When your calcium is high, your arteries are very brittle,” he says. “And when they’re brittle, there’s a chance that they can burst.” The doctors agreed to proceed with surgery to address the total blockage and tackle the other two blockages with medication.
By this point, the whole family was aware of the situation. Tanuja flew back from her trip a few days early and met Ritesh just three hours before his surgery. Other friends and well-wishers sporadically stopped by his hospital room to offer Ritesh endless reassurance and support.
“You have to feel like you’re blessed because you’re alive to tell the tale,” Ritesh muses. “Some people don’t have that opportunity.” His own mother went into cardiac arrest at a New Year’s party and passed away at the age of 52, and other family members have succumbed to similar fates. Doctors even told Ritesh he was about 10 minutes away from a heart attack when he arrived in the emergency room.
“If I didn’t have [my Myzone] and my wife getting on my case about not maintaining and going to the doctor, I probably would have never even gone.”
These days, Ritesh is focused more than ever on longevity and leading a long, healthy life. He gives much credit to Tanuja, who often helps get both of their days off to a running start. “Who wants to get out of bed at like five o’clock in the morning to go work out?” Ritesh asks rhetorically. Typically, one of them will lead the charge, taunting the other lovingly or even picking out coordinating outfits to get them both up and moving early.
Ritesh had always seen himself as a procrastinator – like when he waited to schedule a doctor’s visit even after noticing his excessive heart rate as early as July. “I would make excuses all my life, like ‘oh, I’m so busy,’ ‘I don’t have time,’ or ‘I’ll do it another day.'” Now, as an owner of several businesses, Ritesh’s work mentality parallels his fitness mentality: “I have no one to blame,” he says. “It’s my mistake, my gains, my losses….” Fitness is now not only a staple of his weeks but something Ritesh genuinely loves, and having a tight-knit group of supporters has helped grow that sentiment.
During trips to HAC, Ritesh, and Tanuja are often joined by their close friend, Ashu, who drove Ritesh to the ER. Together, they are model gym buddies. The three text each other constantly to exchange words of encouragement, before and after pictures, and Myzone screenshots. When one member chimes in with a workout report, someone else will ask who’s going to tomorrow’s group fitness class. And if someone’s away on a trip, they’ll still check in with the other two, providing photo evidence that they’re making full use of the gym at the hotel wherever they are. Sure, Ritesh and Tanuja often coordinate their workout clothes, but Tanuja and Ashu go all in. Their bond is built on more than fitness, but their daily investment in one another’s physical and mental well-being is inspiring.
“It’s the people in the party that get the party going,” Ritesh concludes. “Not everything is all about your job, how much you made, how much money you saved, you know? Who doesn’t like success? But you come in empty-handed; you leave empty-handed.” As Ritesh sees it, if you can’t love and respect yourself, you can’t love those around you. Taking care of yourself means taking care of others, and he’s grateful for the continued opportunity to do just that.