Your Heart…and Stress

For the past few months I have experienced pain in my chest, like someone was sitting on it. I was also having some difficulties breathing. Generally I am quite healthy and I dislike going to a doctor of any kind. I never miss work for illness and it takes a lot to get me down. I spent ten days in Hawaii with my family in April. I love the water and while out  on a snorkeling excursion, a woman kicked me in the head. I dropped under water and was lodged between coral reef and rock. I have no idea how long I went under water but when I came to, I saw the sunshine and bubbles. My gear was floating above me at the surface of the water and my kids were yelling at me. My head was pounding. I felt  dizzy and tired, so I got out of the water and told the kids I needed to rest on the beach. I didn’t want them to see my concerns and I am pretty good at hiding things. My theory is and alwasy has been “Why worry everyone else?” This had me worried enough to call a physician when I returned home and have it checked out.

After visiting my doctor and having blood work and an EKG, I was referred to a cardiologist. There I had a stress test and at that time my doctor decided to do a heart cath.They were concerned that I had blockage. With heart conditions so strong in my family, I was really worried. My grandfather was only 46 when he had his first of 4 open heart surgeries. My mother recently having had a stroke and a heart attack was also a red flag for me. Being 48, divorced, single mother, business owner…I am one giant stress ball at times, and it finally caught up to me. I want to be around for a long time and now I know that regardless of what they find, the chances of me having a heart attack are very slim.

Today, I am couch bound and was told NO STAIRS for 24-48 hours…so here I am writing to you about my experiences and what happened. I was admitted into the hospital yesterday in the heart lab, which btw, St Elizabeth’s Hospital (YOU ROCK!) I felt like I was in a 5 star resort.The only thing missing was the sunshine, a few tropical cocktails and my cabana boy. I had a private room with beautiful decor, furniture and high tech equipment. I was quite impressed and it was relaxing. My family was with me all day and the staff kept them very informed. To all of them I am grateful! Being a small town, my hometown certainly has changed in 30 years since I left all those years ago at age 19. I may not have been all that impressed with a lot of other things after returning, but you have to remember I lived in big cities for years where there was always changes and the look was new and fresh.

My cardiologist was amazing as was the staff of nurses, etc at the heart lab. I still don’t know what is causing these issues as my arteries don’t seem to be blocked. They told me that I have to heart of that of an 18-year-old. I said “Oh really doc – then can you give me the body of one too?” Now it’s on to a heart echo and to see other specialists to figure this out. My friends and family have been so supportive through this and I am grateful to have them in my life.

Your body is your home, and it is the only house you’ll ever have, so for goodness sakes, please take care of it! If you have symptoms that aren’t normal, have them checked out. Don’t mess around.

For those of you who don’t understand the heart and what it does;

Your heart is really a muscle. It’s located a little to the left of the middle of your chest, and it’s about the size of your fist. There are lots of muscles all over your body — in your arms, in your legs, in your back, even in your behind.

The heart muscle is special because of what it does. The heart sends blood around your body. The blood provides your body with the oxygen and nutrients it needs. It also carries away waste.

Your heart is sort of like a pump, or two pumps in one. The right side of your heart receives blood from the body and pumps it to the lungs. The left side of the heart does the exact opposite: It receives blood from the lungs and pumps it out to the body.

Heart Parts

The heart is made up of four different blood-filled areas, and each of these areas is called a chamber. There are two chambers on each side of the heart. One chamber is on the top and one chamber is on the bottom. The two chambers on top are called the atria (say: ay-tree-uh). If you’re talking only about one, call it an atrium. The atria is the chambers that fill with the blood returning to the heart from the body and lungs. The heart has a left atrium and a right atrium.

The two chambers on the bottom are called the ventricles (say: ven-trih-kulz). The heart has a left ventricle and a right ventricle. Their job is to squirt out the blood to the body and lungs. Running down the middle of the heart is a thick wall of muscle called theseptum (say: sep-tum). The septum’s job is to separate the left side and the right side of the heart.

The atria and ventricles work as a team — the atria fill with blood, then dump it into the ventricles. The ventricles then squeeze, pumping blood out of the heart. While the ventricles are squeezing, the atria refill and get ready for the next contraction. So when the blood gets pumped, how does it know which way to go?

Well, your blood relies on four special valves inside the heart. A valve lets something in and keeps it there by closing — think of walking through a door. The door shuts behind you and keeps you from going backward.

Two of the heart valves are the mitral (say: my-trul) valve and the tricuspid (say: try-kus-pid) valve. They let blood flow from the atria to the ventricles. The other two are called the aortic(say: ay-or-tik) valve and pulmonary (say: pul-muh-ner-ee)valve, and they’re in charge of controlling the flow as the blood leaves the heart. These valves all work to keep the blood flowing forward. They open up to let the blood move ahead, then they close quickly to keep the blood from flowing backward.

This woke me up and gave me a scare…so please, take care of your heart, and your body. Exercise, eat right, get a physical yearly. There is only one “you” so take care of yourself!

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