Bothersome little health problems are part of getting older. I understand that.
Still, until recently I had considered myself very fortunate. Other than an occasional stiff neck from sleeping wrong or a tired back after spending several hours on my feet, I haven’t had much in the way of maladies to complain about.
But now, as I approach my 59th birthday, I am dealing with a health issue that has me concerned — an irregular heartbeat.
The problem first surfaced about 10 years ago, just after my wife’s mom died. I experienced rapid, irregular heartbeats and bouts of dizziness over a period of several days. Following an EKG and a few other tests, my cardiologist sent me to Scott & White — by ambulance, no less — to have an angiogram. That’s the procedure where they inject dye into your veins to see if you have any blockages.
Fortunately, the angiogram showed my arteries were clear, My cardiologist later prescribed a couple of different heart drugs, but I had some bad experiences with each of them, so he told me that unless my irregular heartbeat impaired my ability to function, I could probably just live with it.
And that’s exactly what I did.
Over the years, the condition would flare up once in a while, but never for more than an hour at a time.
But that all changed recently.
A couple of weeks ago, after I experienced some unwanted side-effects from my blood pressure medication, my doctor prescribed a different medication.
After taking the new meds for just two days, my heart was racing and the beats were extremely irregular. I stopped taking it, but when I woke up the next day, I felt even worse. My wife — who was understandably mad at me for not telling her about my latest problem — drove me to the clinic, where the doctor conducted an EKG.
He assured me that I wasn’t having a heart attack, but my pulse rate was 122 beats per minute. As he put it, “You’re really clipping along.”
He prescribed a medication to slow my heart rate and told me to go home to rest.
The time at home gave me time to think — and to worry.
What if I’m unable to get this problem under control, I asked myself. I hated the thought of being on several medications and still not feeling normal. Even scarier was the thought that I might need a pacemaker to take care of my irregular heart rhythm, or that my heart might just stop altogether.
Fortunately, after doing a little research into my type of arrhythmia on the Internet, I found that it is generally not life-threatening — though it does have to the potential risk of creating dangerous blood clots.
Over the past 10 days, the new medication has had me feeling better, but the irregular beats still pop up several times during the day — often when I’m feeling tired or stressed.
I’m not overweight, but I’m hopeful that by improving my diet and getting some exercise, I can reduce my stress level and help my heart back into its old routine.
Believe me, nothing would make me happier at this point.
This whole episode has been a sobering reminder that life is fragile, that we don’t have any guarantees about our future, and that we must cherish the time we do have.
I’m determined to improve my health and enjoy myself in whatever I do. I owe myself that much.
I owe it to my wife, as well. She’s the love of my life, and as she knows, she has my heart.
So as long as she’s got it, I need to make sure it’s in good shape.
That’s the least I can do for her.