Dec. 5, 2011
My heart has been put through the paces this week. First, I returned to a regular exercise schedule. Second I had a consultation with a cardiologist. Both were very stressful situations.
In my Nov. 14th post, I stated that come Monday (Nov. 15th) I would begin my exercise program. I did, but the two weeks before Thanksgiving is a hectic time. My exercise schedule was very erratic and very slow paced. Two months of no exercise meant my body was very sluggish. To avoid sore, achy muscles, I greatly reduced the pace of my workout.
This past week I had a daily commitment to exercise: 3 days go to the gym and 3 days walk through the neighborhood. Rest on the 7th day. The walks went just fine. My time at the gym was another matter. My rapid breathing and pounding heart reminded me I was still very much out of shape.
The struggle to complete the circuit twice sent my heart rate into the high 140’s (90-95% of maximum). At my age of 61, I should only be at 80% -85% during a workout, which is a rate of 130-135. A few times I had to reduce my pace even more so that I could lower my heart rate. I felt dizzy. I did not want to pass out or fall into one of the many exercise machines. Next week will be another slow week, but soon I will be back to my normal pace.
The trip to the cardiologist was a preventive measure. My endocrinologist said during my last visit that since I am a woman, over 60 and have diabetes I am a prime candidate for heart problems. She related statistics from the American Diabetes Associations.
- One in three women will die of heart disease
- Forty percent of heart attacks result in death
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women with diabetes.
- Women with diabetes are 2 times as like to have a second heart attack and 4 times more likely to have heart failure than women without diabetes.
Needless to say, she had my attention and I agreed to the appointment.
At my initial visit with the cardiologist, my health history and list of medications were recorded. Then I had an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) test. After looking at the EKG results, my doctor said all was fine. He could see no problems. That was welcomed news.
Next he listened to my heart and found I have a “soft murmur” related to the mitral valve. I have known about this murmur for decades. He saw no reason to be concerned so I won’t give it another thought. Then he said he heard a “swishing” sound in my right carotid artery. This will be checked out tomorrow, Monday.
I did return to his office the next day for an echo stress test (Echocardiographic stress test). A blood pressure cuff recorded my heart rate and blood pressure. Electrodes were attached to my body and sound waves were taken of my heart at rest and after exercise.
I walked on a treadmill for several minutes. The goal was to get my heart rate up to 161. (I chose not to tell them I had come close to 161 several times that week when working out at the gym!) Everyone was concerned and kept asking if I were ok, having any pain. No I was fine.
When I reached the magic 161 mark, I got off the treadmill and had a second echo test done. Other than the thunderous pounding of my heart, I felt great. My doctor confirmed that feeling when he said all looks great and I’ll see you in 10 years (meaning he saw no reason for a return visit before then).
I must confess it is pretty amazing to watch your own beating heart on the monitor. The image – just a grainy picture of an odd shaped mass, pulsing – looks nothing like all the heart pictures I have seen. But there it was beating a steady rhythm. It was just as fascinating to hear the various sounds made by the different chambers.
Of course, I still have the carotid artery test tomorrow, which could necessitate another visit with my cardiologist. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t have to return before the 10 years are up.
My heart appears to be in fine condition even when pushed beyond a comfortable rate. My belief is that these past 16 years of managing my diabetes well by eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, reducing stress and (oh, you know the long list of what we do to manage our diabetes) has also protected my heart. I plan to continue living a healthy lifestyle.
I hope you are taking good care of your heart by managing your diabetes well. No matter your age, if you are a woman with diabetes, please have a discussion with your doctor to ensure you are doing all you can to maintain a healthy heart.