Monday, April 23, 2012

From Puffy Feet to Heart Beats - or How My Doctor Scared Me This Morning

For those who don't know, I went through a major health scare a few weeks ago.  I went from just a bit of stomach upset to full-blown fever with hallucinations and a nearly 20 POUND water weight gain (yes, POUNDS.  It was embarrassing and painful) overnight.  Obviously knowing something was very wrong, I saw my dr. the next day, who went into a panic thinking I was possibly in some sort of cardiac distress due to a viral infection.  In fact, she said she was utterly shocked at how bad I looked when she came into the exam room, and the state of my feet and legs (I had such bad swelling that I could barely bend my ankles and toes).  A few doses of Lasix later, and I did a 180....most of the water weight fell off, and I felt a lot better just in 3 days.

Not wanting to miss anything important, she sent me for an echocardiogram, or a heart ultrasound.  The tech couldn't see anything significant during the initial exam, but the cardiologist had to read the results and send a report to my doc.

When I didn't hear anything urgent from her office, I thought everything was fine and figured we would catch up today, when I had my regular monthly appt.  They did notify me that all my blood work came back fine, so I wasn't too worried.

The good news is, I lost all the water weight AND 3 more pounds (huzzah!).  Most of the echo was heart is pumping as it should, and my blood pressure has always been 120/80 except during especially anxious times.  What is of MINOR concern (I wish she had phrased it that way from the beginning) is the ventricular diastole, or the process of the heart relaxing after it pumps.  The echo showed it was somewhat delayed in relaxing fully, which can impact my blood pressure.  She consulted the cardiologist while I was there, and he was not greatly concerned considering my blood pressure history.  I was filled with dread when she first started discussing it, but that calmed me down.  I will have to monitor my blood pressure and go for another echo in 6 months.  I'm so glad the swelling was not anything to do with my heart (they believe it was just my body's defense against the fever - it must have been higher than I realized), but hearing that there's already concerns is disappointing.  I'm not sure of the history of heart problems on either side of my family - while my mom died of cardiovascular disease, hers was most likely linked to her smoking habit.  My dad's side of the family has high cholesterol, which I have tested every 6 months and it's always in a normal range.

This was a real wakeup call for me.  It made me realize that I needed to be more informed and more proactive about my heart's function, as should anyone at my age (38).  No matter if you're a health freak or completely inactive - just a quick check with your primary provider or a cardiologist (for more in-depth testing) could prevent a heart attack.

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