I Thought It Was All in My Mind
(Atlanta, GA USA)
I had high cholesterol for at least 15 years, ranging from 300 to 500. I developed a fatty liver during that time that didn't like statins and never felt comfortable taking them, so even though my husband had an emergency double bypass at age 43 and two stents in the next several years, I didn't take any meds myself. I always said, "I'm a tank. It's only numbers."
Instead, I tried numerous diets and even managed to reverse my type 2 diabetes through one of them but my cholesterol kept coming up for discussion at every doctor's visit. I took it seriously but stayed on the cautious side with a protective eye on my liver.
About 6 months ago I decided to start exercising. In my mid-50's, it seemed wise to use a heart monitor. That's when I realized when my heart rate got upto 135, I felt a pulling in my jaw and at 140 my chest got a bad, crushing feeling. When I mentioned that casually to my doctor at one visit he said I might want to get a calcium score of my heart. The test showed a very low number, so neither of us were very concerned about my future.
My resting heart rate went to over 100 most of the time and my blood pressure started to rise over the next several months. Finally, I was doing yard work early one morning last week and felt a crushing pain in my left shoulder. Sweat ran down my face and I heaved for breath. My pulse and BP were about 50 points higher than normal and they didn't come down for a long time. I phoned the doc right away and they fit me in. My resting EKG was normal. He said, "I don't know what
to make of you." I left with blood pressure meds and an antacid.
Two days later the same thing happened with even less effort. I put in a call for my doctor but thought it must be mental because nothing was wrong the last time. That's when my husband said he wanted me to call his cardiologist instead.
They recommended I go to the ER but the day was busy and when I wasn't doing heavy work it didn't seem like anything was wrong, so I did several loads of laundry and made sure my daughter got to her dentist's appointment, then had one of the kids drive me by the hospital. I told them I'd probably be back out in a few hours.
The nurse at the front desk even commented about how healthy I looked for a "chest pain" complaint, but we went back anyway. I was surprised when they told me I'd be there overnight for observation with a cardiac cath in the morning!
I was even more surprised when the doctor told me I had been 95% blocked in an artery he called "the widowmaker." He said if I had done a stress test I would have had a heart attack, but instead I got a stent and I'm home now, trying to find my new version of normal. The heart scan I had several months before only showed hard plaque and this was a pocket of soft plaque, which can be just as deadly.
I have some questions of my own about heart health and will go to cardiac rehab in a few weeks. My heart suffered no damages, but I still have CAD. Now my hubby and I watch out for each other. I was very lucky.
Life is a gift. I will use it wisely.