Thursday, March 26, 2009

Public Service Announcement

In looking around blogland, I see I've not been the only one with the blahs. I don't know if it's spring fever, but my brain has been a desert lately--bereft of anything worth speaking, much less writing. Part of it can be attributed to a small health concern.

Our new insurance requires we have lab work drawn, and if we are outside the parameters with cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides, blood pressure and BMI, we must go in and be seen by their nurse counselors on a regular basis. I flunked all 5 categories. (J-Man, that show-off, passed all but one.) Did I post that I showed up for my appointment but the nurse counselors never did?

Being the knowledgeable, but non-compliant nurse that I am, I started myself on Flax seed oil, cinnamon capsules, and back on the baby aspirin, as well as some other supplements. Fish oil is better, but I don't like its frequent reminder that I've swallowed it already. Do you usually sprinkle cinnamon on your fish?

Anyway, I did fulfill my promise to my doc to come in after the results, though I knew what would await me. There is a strong family history of diabetes and heart disease in my family, and I was already borderline on the diabetes. After the standard lecture, I confessed to 3 episodes of left arm pain and one episode of chest tightness since January, occasional shortness of breath, and continued fatigue, which prompted my physician to immediately order a stress echocardiogram, that he wanted to schedule the next day--and give me a prescription for nitroglycerin tablets. Nitro?? ME?? Yeah, that scared the P-Turkey out of me!

The cardiologist couldn't see me for a week, so there was much mental fingernail-chewing until then, and that NTG was in my pocket or by my bedside 24/7. Nothing like a bottle of nitroglycerin to raise your anxiety level.

Last Thurs. was my stress echo, and let me tell you, if I was going to have a heart attack, that would have been it! Walking rapidly up a 12% incline had my heart racing along at the 140 beats they wanted in less than a New York minute! Whew! Am I ever deconditioned!

(That's not me, btw--I wasn't thinking of blogging about this and didn't take my camera.)

The good news is, except for "slightly sludgey" arteries, my heart is in fine shape. The cardiologist, who along with my own physician I see almost daily at work, says it's no wonder I've had chest tightness, with the stressful job we do, and the current hospital politics going on causing more stress.

He also sees exercise in my future. (Apparently he and my regular physician utilize the same crystal ball).

Other good news--my triglycerides have already come down from 321 to 225 since December. They should be less than 150, so there's a ways to go yet. The total cholesterol hadn't changed since then, prompting Dr. S to prescribe Lopid for me, as I am allergic to the statins.

It does bother me that the symptoms might be stress-related. In fact, it slightly offends me that my body would be such a wuss. J-Man and I have been through a catastrophic illness, bankruptcy, foreclosure, a failed adoption, and 2 cross-country moves without chest tightness, so why now? It made me feel like a darned hypochondriac to hear that.

So why do I tell you all this? Because not everyone is aware that symptoms of a heart attack in a woman are different than in a man. It's not always the chest-or-arm-grabbing dramatics you see onscreen even for a man, but the symptoms are even more subtle for women: aching in the jaw or neck, or in the arm, and not necessarily the left side, either. And most women, in hindsight, have remembered weeks of fatigue leading up to the event. As wives and mothers, we tend to minimize and ignore our bodies, or chalk any symptoms up to busy lives or lifting kidlets and heavy tote bags or housework.

Denial? Major aspect of heart disease. Somewhere in our subconscious we believe that caregivers are immune to illnesses and diseases, because by golly, who's going to do what we do? We can't get sick now--maybe later, when the kids are grown and we've reached our 90s. I almost didn't tell my doctor about those incidents, because they seemed so insignificant and I felt a little foolish.

Heads up, ladies. I don't want to scare you--well, maybe a little, if it gets you to pay attention to your bodies. If you're having these symptoms, let your doctor know--especially if you are post-menopausal (check), overweight (check), a smoker (nope), a diabetic (check), have high blood pressure (check), or have a strong family history of heart disease(triple check).

Hmmm, I'm seeing some lifestyle changes in my immediate future.


Pat said...

Thanks for the friendly reminder! after my latest episode (and quite a few of the triggers myself)...I see excerise and weightloss in my immediate future!

Karen said...

I good post; thanks.

Catherine said...

This is a really good post -- I hope lots and lots of women read it.
Cinnamon capsules? I had no idea cinnamon helped with anything -- other than tasting good, that is!

Lori in South Dakota said...

great post!! Yes, I am in most those categories too, but Dr. is OK with things at the MOMENT! LOL He says summer will help, we all get outside and do more and spend less time inside!

Arlette said...

Thanks for the reminder. I'm glad that your stress test turned out okay and that your heart is fine. Funny how most of us know better but yet we take our health for granted (speaking for myself on this one). Good luck with the triglycerides...I hope you succeed in lowering your numbers.

MightyMom said...

A) I love the new look to go with the new you!

B) excellent post! great points all!

C) shall I loan you Richie? we can time-share him!

D) love you.

SueR said...

Thank you very much, Stephanie, for writing this post. There is lots of good information here, and plenty to think about. I hit just about half those categories and already take BP meds. Desperately need to add an exercise regimen to my routine.