Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Go Red For Me

A heart can go along beating like everything is just fine, until one day, it's not. Something goes awry and a signal gets crossed and all at once things start going haywire and a once strong and functioning muscle is silenced. Broken.

Years ago, in a too bright room, on a hard, cold table, a very unperson-able cardiologist explained to me how my own heart wasn't quite working correctly. They had monitored it for 24 hours and out of 116,000 beats, 13,000 had originated in the atrium and were premature. I also had an EKG done, and they showed me on the screen how the different bumps show where the beats originate from, what happens when the early beat is going on, and what my heart is doing after the long pause while it resets itself. They call it a slam, and sometimes, when my heart is racing because of stress, or exercise, I can feel it, and I know why it's called that.

On top of that, and having low blood pressure, I have postural hypotension, which is a radical drop in your blood pressure upon standing (or in my case: standing, bending over and straightening, going from squatting to standing, getting up from a lying down position, spinning around too quick.. etc, etc). Normally, when you stand up, the blood vessels constrict to maintain your normal BP in the new position. In people with postural hypotention, that mechanism doesn't work correctly and when you change position, the sudden reduction in blood flow to your brain causes you to get extremely dizzy or faint. Add low blood pressure to the mix, and it's all kind of  magnified.

None of the previously mentioned things are dangerous on their own, or even all together. I do have to be careful when I move from one position to another, especially if it's quickly, and I try to stay hydrated because dehydration makes it so much worse. My heart has what they consider "benign" beats. I suffer from reduced oxygen flow, which on top of the low bp makes my body temperature lower than most peoples and contributes to the fact that I am always cold. It also causes swelling issues with my hands and feet and occasional nausea (which I didn't understand then, nor do I now). They concluded that I was likely born with this condition and a chat with my father confirmed that when I was a little girl they mentioned an irregular heartbeat and told him it was common and not to worry about it. I was 33 when I found out, and he hadn't thought about it in all those years.

February, on top of being the month of love and sappy romance commercials that make me want to gag, is the month that National Heart Association promotes it's "Go Red for Women" campaign. Heart Disease is the leading cause of death among women. Did you know that in a woman, the signs of a heart attack mimic indigestion and are vastly different than those of a man? Inform yourselves. Learn CPR. Wear red at least one day this month, if not for yourself, do it for me.

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