Straight from the heart . . .

Straight from the heart . . .

Indigestion or something else?

Upon my discharge from the hospital I was told, rather emphatically, to report any unusual or concerning symptoms to my cardiologist.  The challenge is now to know what constitutes "unusual" so, as I am prone to do, I asked that question from one of the nurses in cardiac rehab.  A simple answer was that if I experience any symptom or episode that makes me flashback to the heart attack, that would be time to call ... just to be sure!

 

Over the last two weeks, I've been struggling with continuous indigestion and just haven't experienced the same energy.  There may be a number of factors, considering all the meds I'm now on between the heart issues and the osteoarthritis.  Four meds at breakfast, five at night.  So of course, I rationalized it to all the meds or too much spicy food.  It has gotten better but, since that heartburn and pressure reminded me of the symptoms I experienced during my heart attack, we decided it was time to call the cardioligist who immediately brought me in and did an EKG.  The test came out well and the next step was a stress test to make sure there's no blockage where the stent was placed.

 

I do believe the "stress test" must be a double entendre.  With the arthritis, my ankles and left knee aren't in the best of shape and treadmills are not my friend.  We used to enjoy long walks but I haven't been able to do that for a few years now.  Understandably, I was stressed about the stress test because of the impending flare-up to follow afterwards.  The 15 minutes I spend in rehab on a treadmill is very reasonably paced, taking the arthritis into consideration because pain and swelling equals joint damage for me ... something I have been working very hard to try and prevent.

 

If you've ever had an exercise stress test, you know what I'm talking about.  When they told me that they needed to get my heart rate up to 145 (based on my age, height, etc), I thought "oh boy, this is gonna get interesting!"  Needless to say, the ankles didn't hold up so they gave me an injection to speed up the heart rate.  That was quite an experience and the fatigue that hits you comes on strong and rapid ... but fades pretty quickly as well.  Since you can't have any caffeine before the stress test you're encouraged to get some after this injection to restrict your blood vessels. The experience left me a little nauseated, so I was earger for a soda!  

 

I wish my ankles and knees would have held out because heart-wise, I was holding up pretty well ... which was very encouraging!  I truly believe everything is fine with my heart and I'll get the diagnosis from the cardiologist this week.  All of this got me thinking.  Now that I am a two weeks away from completing cardiac rehab sessions, what do  I need to keep in mind from this point on?  First of all, I don't think the "rehab" ever ends.  For me to live a heart-healthly life, that is now a lifestyle!

 

Here are a few tips from a terrific online resource I found at WomenHeart.org:

 

  • Stay on top of routine and follow up appointments. Regular check-ups help your doctor monitor your heart health and detect signs of disease progression.
  • Prepare for your doctor visits in advance. Write down your questions and concerns, any symptoms you are having and any changes in medications you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs, herbal and vitamin supplements.
  • Work to reduce your risk factors. This will help prevent or delay future heart problems.
  • Know your numbers. Keep track of your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose levels through routine screenings or as recommended by your health team.
  • Pay attention to your symptoms. If they become more frequent or severe, contact your doctor right away. If you think you are having a heart attack, call 9-1-1. Never drive yourself to the hospital; your symptoms could worsen while you are behind the wheel.
  • Stick with your treatment plan. Follow your heart team’s recommendations and take medications as directed. If you experience side effects, tell your doctor. You may require a dose change or a medication change. Ask specifically for something to help relieve the side effects.
  • Write down questions or concerns you have for your health care provider. Prioritize your questions and concerns. Be sure to take the list to the office or the clinic. Ask for clarification if you don’t understand something your doctor tells you.
  • Bring a family member or friend with you. The stress of a medical visit sometimes makes it easy to miss important information. It is a good idea to bring a family member or trusted friend with you to your appointments. They can listen, help ask questions, take notes, and provide emotional support.

 

One of the tips I have to remind myself of constantly:  "Know there will be good days and bad, so don’t beat yourself up or overdo it."   

 

I am, honestly, still working on that one!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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