I'd like to share a heartfelt hello and greeting to all of you who read, share and use this excellent and informative site. I've joined HealthCentral as a heart health commentator, and I'd like to share some of my experiences with you.
I'm a writer, teacher both of high school English and journalism students and college students studying for their teaching credentials, former restauranteur, owner of a real estate brokerage in the California Palm Springs desert area, and author of the book "Why Don't You Have Kids?" Wow, sounds kind of busy, doesn't it!
Well, I've had some time to accomplish it all at the age of 66. That looks so old when I put it in a post, but like every age, you don't know how you're going to feel or what it's going to be until you're there. When they ran all of us freshmen through some medical tests (I was 17 at the University of California, Berkeley) I was told I had a heart murmur and needed clearance from our family doctor. It was news to me but my doctor said I'd had it a long time and it was harmless. I did notice skipped beats (PVCs) and these sometimes became annoying as I went into my twenties and thirties. At 35 I was diagnosed with Mitral Valve Prolapse and over the years had some little heart incidents which resolved rather easily, but when I turned 60 I began to have some real heart issues. First was the appearance of Atrial Fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat which can contribute to strokes. I was placed on coumadin, a blood thinner, and began the regular blood tests and careful monitoring of diet that coumadin-takers must handle. After three months my cardiologist performed a cardioversion (with paddles) to shock my heart back into a normal rhythm. Very fortunately for me (only 20% of atrial fib resolves this way) my heart went back to NSR (normal sinus rhythm) and stayed there without antiarrythmic medications.
But the question was, why had this happened? And so we began the search that revealed my mitral valve prolapse had worsened and had become moderate to severe. I made the decision in 2007 to talk to heart surgeons about repairing the valve and in January of 2008 at UCLA under the excellent care of Dr. Richard Shemin I had my valve repaired with minimally invasive surgery, utilizing the Da Vinci Robot. My recovery progressed well and soon I was active and busy again.
A year and a half later, however, after a particularly stressful event relating to work and a client, I found myself feeling somewhat unwell, with aches in my chest and arms. Thinking it was just tension, I ignored it for a day but finally went to my Urgent Care, where I was put in an ambulance and taken immediately to the ER as I showed all signs of having a heart attack. This was puzzling as my arteries had been clear before my surgery. The next day after an echocardiogram my doctor told me I had a takotsubo cardiomyopathy, where the heart is momentarily "stunned" by chemicals which can constrict blood vessels, usually following a very upsetting event. This unusual condition happens mostly to post menopausal women, and the recovery rate is very high. I regained my heart strength quickly and am doing well.
I hope to provide a voice of experience and an approachable way for readers to learn about heart health and most importantly, stress and anxiety and how to cope with and even laugh at our worries. Believe me, I am an expert when it comes to Fretting 101, Perfectionism, Being in Control (if only!) and even panic disorder and its close cousin, agoraphobia. My adventures, triumphs and failures in these arenas are yours to enjoy and hopefully gain perspective from. Thank you to HealthCentral for this opportunity to share.