Friday, November 06, 2009

You Gotta Have Heart

Only a few of you that I know personally have been aware that this fall I have been a little worried about my health. At the Austin Triathlon I experienced some pressure in my chest and higher than normal heart rates.

All I could think of was Steve Larsen, an elite former pro that died of a heart attack during an interval session on the track. Am I having a heart attack? Is this just indigestion?

Of course it was hot as balls and I'd had a wee bit of stimulants that morning.

Then in the Houston heat, I was doing an evening run and I felt a blip in my torso followed by a jump of my heart rate from 130 to 180+ with no change in my effort or pace. Again, all I could think of was Steve Larsen.

Of course, the job had been stressful that day, and I'd had a little bit more than my normal level of caffeine.

Then, as the training volume maxed out, I felt pressure in my chest and fatigue when I tried to get going in the morning or rose from my chair to go up the stairs. And all I could think of was Steve Larsen.

Rather than be the typical man and avoid going to the doctor -- especially in the run up to Ironman Cozumel -- I decided that it was a little bit stupid to risk sudden cardiac death in pursuit of a hobby. Ironman, for all the grandiloquence and purple prose expended in its praise, some of it here, is (at the end of the day) just a hobby. Call it extreme stamp collecting or model railroading on steroids.

So, I went to the doctor and went my way through the American Health Care System in search of an answer.

There was the Primary Care Physician visit with normal heart rate, normal blood pressure and normal resting EKG. Check. OK, but that did not really test my heart at stress, even though I was experiencing that icky feeling in my chest.

Then there was the referral to get a Holter Monitor to wear for 24 hours and while exercising. Check.

Then there was the referral to have blood drawn for lab work. Check.

Then there was the referral to (and selecting a) cardiologist to poke me and Check.

Then Dr. Cardiology though he might hear a heart murmur through his stethoscope; so, there was the cardiology referral to get an echo cariogram (essentially an ultrasound of the heart instead of a uterus, which would be an interesting search in my case).


And at the end of the day all the tests were normal. Indeed, they were way better than normal. I just needed to mix in some decaff and some tums.


Four years of triathlon and three years of Ironman have made me healthy beyond my wildest dreams.

I am 43 years old and take no medications -- save for some acid reflux. No blood pressure medication. No cholesterol medication. No Viagra (**wink**). No diabetes medication. Not bad for a 50+ hour per week lawyer at an AmLaw200 firm.

At 43, I have no injuries or knee problems or back problems in spite of (or because of) hours and hours of training and physical training every week.

At 43, my resting heart rate is 51 beats per minute.

At 43, my total cholesterol is 169, "good" cholesterol of 71. Most people have to take drugs or pursue Veganism to get numbers like that.

At 43, my weight is 139 pounds and my body mass index is 23.1 -- while 2/3 of my fellow citizens are overweight or obese.

I am healthy and blessed beyond my wildest expectations. But here's the dirty little secret: t

There is nothing special about me.

If you are a person of normal health, even normal "bad" health for a person of your age, this could be you. Over time, within limits, slow and steady, this could be you.

This is good news. Or is it? Watch this space. More later.


21stCenturyMom said...

You may have read my long story of being checked out for cardiac problems due to an odd rhythm during a physical. My heart always beats hard as hell after I race - for days.

I had all of the tests you had plus a treadmill stress test with follow on echo cardiogram.

Turns out I have an idiosyncratic heart beat that is a normal variant. My parasympathetic system goes into overdrive for a while after I race in an attempt to get my HR and BP down (even though it is already down).

My cardiologist told me the same thing yours told you - an 80 year old who doesn't have any cardiac disease has as strong a heart as a 20 year old. So do I. So, apparently, do you.

I still worry - all the time. Sigh.... ignorance of the sudden death of athletes would be nice. Really nice.

Athena Misty, aka "GeekGirl" said...

Sometimes a weird, fluxuating thyroid can make hearts go a-flutter. Hyper/hypo/hyper/hyp. I'm sure you're doctor is getting that all checked out, but just thought I'd toss my current thyroid-centric reality in there.

Fe-lady said...

So glad everything is "normal" or I should say "better than normal"- 'cause normal these days is-well, I wouldn't want to be it.

And I maybe should write a health piece about being a 56 year old female and training for IMs/tris.

But enough people hate me I won't. :-p

Kim said...

im just making sure your liver is in tact? okay good.

Spokane Al said...

I hope that this alarm is a false one and that it does not affect you extreme stamp collecting hobby.

Coach Liz said...

I have to get to the doctor as well for a heart check up. Just a check up with my cardiologist. Always fun to go in and knock the socks off of the doctors who expect a person in poor health who was born with a congenital heart defect and has had open heart surgery and a catherization.

TRI TO BE FUNNY-Carrie Barrett said...

Veganism rules even though my cholesterol is still "elevated." :-) Where are my pink compressions by the way?!?!?