Wednesday, March 10, 2010

ECG and Cardiologist Visit

On a walk with Buddy Monday morning, I blacked out. The ground was soft and no damage was done except that Buddy could not figure out why his walk was interrupted. This had happened before, many times during the past 12 years in fact, along with other strange symptoms like sweating profusely, feeling cold and clammy, getting short of breath, fatigue, flutter in my chest. I'd also experienced the blackness closing in feeling almost weekly for awhile without actually fainting. Yes, I've been to the doctor many times and all had suggested asthma issues, low blood sugar, not enough calories, etc.

For the first time ever, my nurse practioner ordered an ECG, or EKG, depending on your language choice. During the quick and painless procedure, I could tell immediately that something wasn't right. It seemed that panic kind of took hold of everyone - I was told that my ECG was "very abnormal" and that I needed to see a cardiologist immediately. Additional tests were also ordered, and I had to endure the lab techs asking if this was a "stat" procedure. I guess they thought I was having a heart attack at that moment. Although I asked several questions, I couldn't get any answers except "wait for the cardiologist." (Insert rather embarassingly large breakdown by me at the very thought that I might not be able to run).

Here's the kicker: my cardiologist informed me that I have the heart of an athlete, very healthy. WooHoo! However, along with this efficient heart, I've got low blood pressure. I have an abnormal reflex, called Neurocardiogenic Syncope or Vasovagal Syncope. It results in a big drop in blood pressure leading to a decrease in blood flow (and thus oxygen) to the brain. This happens in some people when they are exposed to triggers such as blood, injury, needles in the arm, etc. In others, it just happens, possibly due to genetics. And, when it happens a lot, a person can become very fatigued.

Treatment? I chose to learn to deal with it naturally, rather than taking risky medications. Running is good for me, along with drinking a whole lot of water -as in more than 3 liters a day. The other recommendation is to add some salty snacks, (again woohoo since I'm always craving salty things) and to add electrolytes to my water. I do need to lay off the caffeine, which is a bummer, so I'll be switching to decaf coffee. Managing stress at my job would also be helpful, or at least sitting down once in awhile to let my body self regulate. There are a few other things to learn and be worked out, but after the events of the past 48 hours, I am relieved. It is also nice to finally know and understand what's been going on with me for so long. I look forward to many more years of running!


Danni said...

Oh wow that's really scary Iris. I'm glad it's something that can be managed.

TooeleTwins said...

Well, it's always nice to hear right from the expert when you have a healthy anything. So, congrats on the athlete's heart! (Something that we already knew...) Oddly, I also have very low blood pressure. Mine is genetic. My mom had the same problem. It's not a horrible problem to have - much better than the alternative!

Stephanie Gehrsitz said...

Yes, I'm also glad it is something you can improve. I, too have low blood pressure hence I might be tired a lot and I am always cold.

T.C. said...

What a scary experience! I'm glad it's treatable and that you can keep running!


Anne said...

Hi Iris,
First of all, I'm glad you're okay...that must have been so scary!

I wanted to thank you for coming by my blog. I'm glad to meet someone else running with asthma...I'll definitely be following along.

Do take care...and happy running.

Anne said...

Thanks for your comment Iris...nice to know I'm not the only one struggling with this degree of asthma.
Well...sorry that you have to deal with this too, but nice to not be alone. Maybe I should move to Montana :)