“It’s just middle age.” “You’re just getting older.” “All women your age are tired.” “You need to exercise more.” — NOT (always) TRUE!
If you’ve been reading my stories for a while, you know that a few years ago, I had a heart ablation as well as a more detailed version of that, a PVI, or Pulmonary Ventricular Isolation. These procedures were to correct a severe Atrial Fibrillation or an “A-fib” problem.
My doctors explained heart problems are either “plumbing” or “electrical.” The plumbing problems result from high cholesterol or other types of blood flow issues, usually a blockage in the arteries. This plumbing problem frequently leads to heart attacks. Electrical — which is what I had, isn’t easy to explain, because in many cases, there seems to be no reason for it. It often leads to strokes.
I ate healthy, had a healthy weight and exercised. My only downfall was heredity. Ooo boy! And what a history it was. My great-grandmother, grandmother, several of her brothers and then eventually, my own father all died from issues related to strokes or aneurisms.
You can click on the image to the left to enlarge it and read more about A-fib. When having an attack, your heart races as if you’ve just run a marathon. My A-fib got to the point, it was every day and would last for hours, if not all day long.
During EKG’s I sometimes showed additional signs of “A-flutter,” which sounds sweet — like a pretty butterfly. I can assure you, it’s not.
Things that would regularly cause your heart to beat faster, like climbing stairs, speaking in public or lifting something heavy would send me into orbit. My Apple Watch clocked heart rates of 140-180 beats per minute, and after about 5 hours of that, you just want to collapse. I’d be gasping for air, and people around me didn’t understand. They told me I needed to excercise more. (AAGGGHHH!!!) If I’d had the energy, I’d have choked them. Just because I didn’t look overweight or sickly, no one understood. It was completely frustrating.
You can read more about my PVI procedure HERE.
The happy ending for me, is that after a 5-hour long procedure at Providence Hospital in 2018, I’m completely fine and haven’t had one single episode of A-fib. I’ve taken vacations where I walk 9-12 miles a day including running up and down stairs while helping with heavy luggage, and hiking along steep mountain trails.
At dinner one night in Milan, I just started crying and told Bob I was so happy that I wasn’t gasping for air. I never thought I’d be able to travel again. Once you’ve had it bad, you appreciate the good all the more.
Four months after my surgery, I had to do the hardest thing I’d ever done, which was to give the eulogy at my father’s funeral, after he died much too young, from the results of a stroke. Normally, I wouldn’t have been able to even stand up that long without having to sit down to catch my breath, but other than heartbreaking sadness, I was fine. It was truly a miracle that I didn’t pass out. I looked around that day at his family that has been touched by so many strokes, at their widows, and children and grandchildren left behind, and realized how blessed I was to be born at a time when medicine has advanced and there is help for this frustrating killer.
So, this Friday, February 7th, remember to wear red to remind women to seek help for heart issues. It isn’t always a heart attack, and if you are like me and experiencing issues of fatigue, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath, don’t let a doctor tell you it’s just “middle age” and “all young mothers get tired at your age.” — NOT TRUE! Seek help, because you know your body best and know when something isn’t right. Speak up and be your own advocate for good heart health!
To read more articles about women’s heart health and especially A -fib, you can look at my Heart Health Pinterest page.