Posts from the ‘Heart Health’ Category
June 20th, 2012
I’ve been taking a beta blocker (metoprolol) since the blood clot was discovered in my heart last year. In a nutshell, the medication helps reduce heart problems by relaxing blood vessels and slowing the heart rate, which improves blood flow and decreases blood pressure. While that’s a good thing for a cardiac patient, I also experienced some side effects like constant fatigue and circulation problems with my hands. Which was getting a bit tiring (pun intended).
Yesterday I heard the sweetest words from my cardiologist: I can stop taking the beta blocker! And I don’t need to come back for a year!
I still need to take a daily 325mg aspirin, but I am so excited to get this drug out of my system. I mentioned the physical side effects, but there was an emotional impact too. Taking a medication like metoprolol makes you feel like you’re being actively treated for a condition, while aspirin seems preventative. Semantics, maybe. But it was taking a toll. Yesterday that was lifted.
Last month I wrote about the lessons I’ve learned through this experience, including gratitude. Today I’m especially grateful for the excellent care I have received from the team at Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute in Seattle. Not only are they technically very good at cardiac medicine, they are kind, compassionate and really listened to me as a patient. So a big shout out to Dr. John V. Olsen, Dave Panther, Scott and Bessie – you made a big difference.
See you next year!
May 2nd, 2012
One year ago today I learned I had a blood clot in my coronary artery. You don’t go through a medical adventure like this unchanged, and as I reflected on the past 12 months I thought about what I’ve learned.
Know, trust and take care of your body.
I’ve always been pretty in tune with mine and it paid off – my cardiologist told me I was fortunate to have felt those early warning signs, and by catching the clot early I avoided a heart attack. I avoided a heart attack. So many people dismiss the symptoms of health problems, which can lead to more severe diagnoses and even death. Please, please, please – know what’s “normal” for your body, and don’t be afraid to get something that doesn’t feel right checked out.
There was a period of time when I was scared to exercise because I didn’t trust my heart could handle it. An extensive series of tests in January showed that my heart is in great condition (yes!) so my focus now is getting the rest of my body back in shape. I had forgotten how good it feels to be physically fit.
Understand heart attack and other health warning signs, even if you don’t fall into a high risk category. I have a keen interest in organizations that focus on women’s health, so I already knew about the Hope Heart Institute and the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women program, even though I didn’t consider myself part of their target audience. Their websites were the first place I went when I suspected there might be something wrong with my heart.
Don’t wait until you have a problem to find out what resources are available online or in your community.
I was treated with blood thinners in lieu of a stent, and was told to avoid physical exertion for a couple of months. People who know me know that slow does not come naturally to me – I always have personal projects, and family and volunteer commitments going on top of my day job.
Slowing down physically forced me to slow my brain down, too. I find myself more deliberate in my decision-making, more patient with others, and I’m trying really hard to make time for myself a priority.
Major health issues are terrifying, and I experienced every emotion in the spectrum: from denial to anger and depression before finally accepting that this experience was indeed real. I’m very fortunate to have a husband who picks up the slack when I need to rest, two kids who love me dearly, an extended family that is always willing to help, and a wonderfully supportive group of friends.
I am truly blessed.
February 20th, 2012
Earlier this month I wrote about the discovery of a blood clot in my heart. Fortunately, I knew the warning signs and was able to get medical treatment before I had a full-blown heart attack. That’s not the case for everyone.
Heart disease and stroke are the first and fourth leading causes of death in the United States.
Million Hearts, a national initiative by the US Department of Health & Human Services, has set an ambitious goal to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. They are asking people to make a pledge:
- Prevent heart disease and stroke in your families by understanding the risks
- Know your ABCS—Appropriate Aspirin Therapy, Blood Pressure Control, Cholesterol Control, Smoking Cessation
- Get up and get active
- Fuel your body by eating a heart-healthy diet, high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in sodium, saturated and trans fats, and cholesterol
- Take control of your heart health by following your doctor’s instructions for medications and treatment
(There’s a promise of “kudos and a distinguished prize” for the blog that refers the most pledges in February. Let’s see if we can win!)
February 10th, 2012
Women’s health is more than breast cancer.
Last spring, I was training for a half-marathon and found myself getting winded very early on during my runs. I’d get short of breath, and my chest and throat would burn until I rested. At first I chalked it up to a lingering cold, but after a few runs I figured I was simply out of shape and needed to suck it up. I tried to power through the next run – after a few minutes I had to turn around, go home and lie down. I started wondering if something was going on with my heart.
A Google search and the Hope Heart Institute website made it pretty clear I needed to see a doctor.
My regular doctor thought I might have exercise-induced asthma, but initial tests didn’t show anything. So she did an EKG, which led to a cardiologist referral. A stress test showed a blockage in my coronary artery.
There’s nothing like a problem with your heart to remind you of your mortality.
The following Monday an angiogram led to the discovery of a blood clot. The location of the clot made a placing a stent difficult, so I was put on blood thinners and beta blockers to help it break down and allow it to be reabsorbed.
Nine months later, I’m doing well. I’ve started running again and tests indicate my heart is healthy, my arteries are clear. I’m still taking some medications and added an aspirin to my daily vitamins. We don’t know what caused the clot, but I’ve got a great team at the Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute keeping an eye on me.
While this was going on I was taking a digital storytelling class at Antioch. The cathartic power of writing a narrative and creating a movie is amazing. The movie’s a bit rough, but it tells my story in more detail.