Two weeks ago, I had an EKG to make sure that a medication I had been taking for almost five years was not messing with the electrical function of my heart. In case you aren’t familiar, and EKG (or electrocardiogram) shows the heart’s electrical activity as line tracings on paper. It’s a super easy and quick test that involves placing electrodes on small, sticky patches in various places on your chest and torso for 60-90 seconds and then you are finished.
This past Tuesday, the nurse practitioner from the referring doctor’s office called me to discuss the findings. Her words “possible anterior infarction” and “ST level elevation” along with the concern in her voice sent a chill down my spine. These were the findings from the cardiologist that read my report. She told me that it appeared that I’d had a heart attack since my last EKG in 2011, and I needed to see a cardiologist immediately to discuss next steps.
Can you say, let’s freak the eff out???
Given that my dad had twelve years of cardiac history before the last heart attack took his life in front of me, telling me that I had somehow, unknowingly had a heart attack scared the crap out of me. And made my chest hurt, which I find ridiculous and ironic all at the same time. How had I gotten to this place? Yes, I had gained weight over the last 5 years that I had not managed to get rid of. And my diet is crap. But I quit smoking over 8 years ago. I rarely drink. I have labs drawn every year, and all of the things that are supposed to be “risk factors” for a heart attack – blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar – were all normal for me. Did my crappy diet really do this to me and was I now going to spend the rest of my life fighting against my own body?
A cardiologist in my medical group made room for me in two days – not another good sign that nothing is wrong – and I was off to the doctor this morning. As soon as he walked in the door and we started chatting, I knew I would like working with him. His first comments? An EKG is the least reliable test to indicate a heart attack there is.
Let me repeat that – An EKG is the least reliable test to indicate a heart attack there is.
Now granted, this is his opinion and there were more words after that but I think I blacked out for a minute. I almost got up and kissed the guy. You see that while the EKG is a perfectly fine test – and it indicated that the electrical function the original doc wanted to check was JUST FINE – the findings of the “possible anterior infarction” (which is a fancy way to say heart attach in the front part of your heart) were subjective. The machine could have made a hiccup at that moment, a sensor could have been too close to the underwire in my bra, or the tech who read my report could have been overly cautious. Apparently, false positives are a THING WITH THIS MACHINE.
Now that I had come back down off the ledge of “I’m dying” and we had a more thorough conversation, two more tests – a stress echo (where you walk/run on a treadmill and then they take an ultrasound of your heart to see how it works while you are active) and a calcium study (like a ct-scan, so they can look for any calcium deposits while it is resting) would give us a 100% clear picture of what, if anything, we were dealing with.
I’m not off the hook though. As far as I’m concerned, this was a warning shot for me. I need to get my act together about my health or my body IS going to turn on me and there will be nothing I can do about it. I have the ability and the choice to make impactful changes now that will help me to be around longer for my children. Cuz that’s really what I’m talking about now. The difference between my kids having their mother for the next 10 years or the next 25. I keep forgetting that the days are precious – and numbered. A lesson that I learned the hard way. While it appears that I didn’t actually have a heart attack this time, given my family history and my lifestyle choices it’s probably only a matter of time before heart disease, diabetes, or liver troubles start to alter my life – and my life expectancy. The choices are mine, and I need to make new ones.
Please don’t take this post as an invitation to sell me on the diet / exercise / lifestyle plan that works for you. I love you all for the work that you do, and I’m not dissing any of you. I need to find what works for ME, in my own way. Trust me, when I want and need your specialty help, I know where you all are. xoxo