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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Heart of the Matter

"...Code Blue, C.T. #1.....Code Blue, C.T. #1.....Code Blue, C.T. #1...."

Lordy, those are not the words you want to hear over the hospital loudspeaker system as you're lying down for your very first heart echocardiogram.  But that's precisely what happened yesterday.  LoverBoy had just sat down on the chair next to the bed I was lying down on and the nice technician man was hooking up my heart monitoring equipment.....when those words about a Code Blue came screaming overhead.  And in case you don't know, a Code Blue is when a person has gone into cardiac arrest, their heart has stopped beating.   You see, my own father had two unannounced heart attacks in his early 50s.  Well just you guess now who is approaching that particular age?  Ahem.  And the men in my family have a terrible track record -- none have lived past their upper 60s or early 70s.  And I've had a bit of a minor history of funny feelings in my chest.  Not pain.  Not compression or pressure.  Believe me, I know the symptoms....and I'd be the first person to head to the E.R. if I needed to.  Sort of palpitations, sort of a minor bit of pain....nothing major, or even medium.  Just weird, strange sensations.  And that always makes me wonder.  I had high cholesterol until five years ago when I started my Zocor.  Unfortunately, medications like Zocor give a false sense of "I can eat whatever I want to because my medication will take care of it."  I do my annual blood work to make sure I'm where I need to be.  But I always wonder what my arteries look like.....is there plaque buildup happening?  Should I be doing more? 

I take four fish oil a day...along with a men's multivitamin, a vitamin E, and a low-dose aspirin to help prevent coagulation of my blood just in case.  I used to be a pretty regular attendee at the gym but that has turned into nothing.  I haven't gone in a long time.  And my yoga practice does as much for calming and anxiety as anything.  I floss my teeth nearly daily (did you know that good dental care can actually help keep bacteria and disease out of your body, including your heart??).  My blood pressure has always been normal (120/80) but has been creeping up over recent times.....into the 130s or even 140s.  Unacceptable over the long term.  The doctor is headed toward prescribing me high blood pressure medications....and I'm dragging my feet over it.  My EKG was perfect.  I've been wanting to have a heart C.T. scan to see if there is blockage in my arteries -- but insurance won't pay for it unless there's a good reason to.  I could falsely complain of heart attack symptoms but all that would do it put me in the Emergency Room.  I hate it that we don't provide for preventive procedures but, rather, they'll give it to me after I have a potential heart attack.  So, I had four consecutive days of a strange sensation in my chest last week.  And my doctor sent me over to Providence Portland Medical Center for the echocardiogram yesterday. 

What an experience.  Here's a video of an echocardiogram.  I've never seen inside of my heart in that way.  Wow.  I mean, suddenly you're just staring at the four chambers of your heart...and the valves, and the aorta, and the septum.  The little mitral and tricuspid valves.  The little pieces of skin making up the valves flipping open, closed, open, closed.  So fascinating consider that this little heart of mine has been pumping for 49 years.  Thousands of times, repeatedly.  And I'm hoping that it will continue for a bit longer.  The dude took 58 still photos and additional videos for assessment.  He shot pics in several different angles, some with color, some moving, some with sound.  He measured each of the four chambers to see if they were enlarged.  He measured the ejection fraction (EF) to see the percentage of blood leaving your heart with each contraction (normal is 55-70%).  I dig this sort of thing, the technology, the medical field has always interested me.  But I prefer it on others rather than myself.  I'm probably making it out to be a bit more sensational than it was.  But for a guy who is intrigued and wants some information about what's going on inside, and wondering if he has his father's bad heart genes, and questions every little feeling in his chest, it was just what I needed. 

So, I'll keep on working at it.  Paying attention to the amount of fried foods I eat.  Flossing, taking my vitamins and drugs, maybe even getting back into a cardio/yoga routine.  And I need to keep on trying to figure out how to get my insurance to pay for a Heart CT scan this year.  I just wonder if I should be doing more or taking additional preventive measures.  And I wonder if my arteries are all clogged up and ready for a myocardial infarction.  But in the meantime, I'll keep the images of my beating heart, its chambers and valves in my head.  It's good incentive. 

Oh, the results of my echocardiogram......fine.  100% perfect, were the words.  No enlargement of the heart or any particular chamber, the valves are opening and closing perfectly, and my Ejection Fraction is 70% (remember normal is 55-70%).  And that's good news. 

12 comments:

Blair said...

We are stuck together. I couldn't be happier. It was an interesting process and I am glad I could be there with you!! Here's to another 50 years!!!!

Ron said...

Good news! The beat goes on (so to speak.)

Thom said...

I'm glad it turned out well. I've had numerous EKGs because of similar odd feelings in my chest. The cardiac CT scan is a great test, but you're right - insurance companies do not like paying for one. I had one in the course of an ER visit and ended up paying the entire cost of it myself. It showed that my arteries are completely clear, though, which is nice to know. Still no explanation for the odd feelings and pressure in my chest, though.

Ur-spo said...

Congratulations on the good heart findings. You are being very sensible to keep a healthy diet and flossing etc. and not get into a false sense of inactivity.

wcs said...

That's fantastic! I need to do the same. In fact, my generalist gave me a referral to a cardiologist, I'll be making the appointment for this spring.

Kinda nerve wracking, but necessary.

Rick said...

Glad your EKG came back okay. I too just had one as part of my annual physical - fine too.

I too do the fish oil, multi-vitamin thing. I don't do vitamin E though. I do D, but not necessarily for heart. I also do a pro-biotic and resveratrol (along with a glass or two of wine).

Annie said...

Here's the deal brother:

I couldn't handle you not being well. You are my rock, besides the Rock. I am glad everything turned out kosher, because I "told it to be so". Selfish? Yes.

..... and that's my two cents worth.

bardelf said...

That's all great news. I also do many of the same proactive/healthy supplements and routines that you mention. I really wish that our health care system was more rewarding of preventative medicine and lifestyles.

anne marie said...

YAYZ for good heart reports!

J.P. said...

Yay! for good results. :)

Writer said...

Congrats on the good results! Keep up the good work and the good eating. :)

BosGuy said...

Alan,
Stay healthy and you'll stay happy. Going to the gym isn't a prerequisite for living healthier. Maybe you and your loving hubby can make a commitment to walk 2-3 miles each day?

Much love,
BosGuy