Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Dose Of Reality

I interrupt my regular journalism blog with a dose of reality, my reality. Life has a habit of doing things like this as I'm sure you know. The reality is I've had a heart attack. The scary thing is I don't know when I had it.

Between 40 and 60 per cent of all heart attacks are silent, like mine. They're silent because the symptoms, such as shortness of breath and nausea, are either ignored or attributed to something else, like indigestion or stress. They're also twice as deadly as non-silent heart attacks and the risk factors are the same, such as lack of exercise, high blood pressure and smoking.

My heart attack was found while being checked out by a specialist for an irregular heartbeat, which, it turns out, I don't have. I was having an echocardiogram done when scar tissue was discovered. The good news is that my heart attack was small and the scar is at the back of the heart not the front where it would be cause for concern. The other good news is that my heart is otherwise in great shape, meaning no blocked arteries and no evidence of heart disease.

The doctor also told me that my heart attack wasn't recent, which I took to mean not within the past month or so. My best guess is that it may have occurred sometime in 2008 when I was under titanic stress from caring for my father, who was alive and still at home with probable Alzheimer's. (He has since died.) However, it might have come last fall when I bought a load of earth and moved it around, something which I do at least once a year. It may have come at some other time.

Receiving the news has come as a shock to me. Now every twinge I wonder if it's another heart attack. Hopefully this hyper-alterness will soon die down. I am trying to change my diet and to lose a little weight. There are many other things I'm doing right and don't have, such as exercising regularly and not smoking. I'm also not diabetic and don't have high blood pressure.

I write this as a warning to others to pay attention to your body. Journalists are often guiltier than others of poor habits. Whether it's poor earting, not exercising, smoking or some other bad habit, make time to change. Remember the life you save might be your own. And as I've learned, it can happen to you.