I was 27 years old when I was diagnosed with Autonomic Dysfunction, a Global Cardiomyopathy, and fatal cardiac arrhythmias including Ventricular Tachycardia. It was overwhelming. It almost killed me but thanks to an insightful, brilliant Cardiology Specialist, my Electrophysiologist, Dr. Clemo, I am alive raising my children, being a wife to my wonderful husband, and living on our small chicken farm- here to fight another day.
American Heart Association's Go Red for Women seeks to change that and they've made outstanding progress. Just since I was diagnosed 10 years ago, the treatment I receive when its necessary for me to go straight to the hospital has changed dramatically.
My husband and I fought for almost 3 years to get a quality diagnosis and care. Three days prior to having my dual chamber ICD (Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator) an ER physician pulled my husband from the room and told him to get me evaluated for depression and anxiety. Now, not to say I wasn't anxious- BOY was I ANXIOUS! I'd been fainting regularly- several times a week regularly. Sometimes on the treadmill, my heart rate would shoot up to the 200 range within 3-5 minutes of my warm-up. I was seriously fatigued (which can also be a classic sign of depression) and often short of breath. I was beginning to think it was all in my head but then I felt so strongly something wasn't right with my body. I accepted the prescription for Zoloft from my primary care physician on the terms that if I took "his" route he would agree to write a referral for a cardiologist. Although the preliminary EKG and chest X-ray came back normal, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was not.
Seeing a cardiologist allowed me to have some more extensive testing done. Not everyone who has a cardiac disease will have an abnormal EKG! If you take nothing else away from my post- take that as one of the two items to rememberm the second is to trust your body! Never be embarrassed to get second opinions. After having an echocardiagram, I was told I DO have a global cardiomyopathy. Global meaning it was my entire heart muscle and not just one of the four chambers, cardiomyopathy meaning basically my heart was sick. Your heart is a muscle and it needs to stay strong like your other muscles to function, mine is no longer strong. My ejection fraction was very low which basically means it's not pumping as well as it should. This explained why I was fainting, short of breath and so physically exhausted all of the time. I am at risk of sudden cardiac death and dangerous cardiac arrhythmias. I was stunned- I suddenly wished I was "just depressed or anxious" as I'd been told. Thank God for my loving and supportive family and that my EP, Dr. Clemo happened to transfer to our little town 10 years ago from Richmond soon after my diagnosis.
|Dr. C is also a great surgeon, my scar is minimal and you can barely see my device.|
Until my own heart disease, I knew nothing about what my numbers should be, what a heart attack could feel like, nor signs of trouble. After three heart attacks, I can honestly tell you never once did I have chest "pain." I felt a pressure- almost like an elephant was standing on my chest and it took much effort to inhale and exhale, a focused effort to breath; exhausted, terribly and physically (not the mental tired- this is different); I was sweaty- GROSS sweaty ladies, drippy, nasty sweaty; and nauseous- oh SO sick to my stomach in a way that was "different" than I'd felt before. Amazingly, I also began to feel a sense of dread- I tried to ignore it and chalk it up to anxiety or panic at first but then I realized it was real and it was there. I did not imagine it, my body was screaming for me to get help. Praise God, I have an ICD so anytime my heart stops or starts running in dangerous arrhythmias, it shocks me. It's also a "pacemaker" so when my heart decides to run low (for me it's set at 74 beats per minute) it gently paces me back up to the 74 bpm. Find out all of the typical symptoms of women's heart attacks here and more information here.
|A little bit of my morning, afternoon, and evening regiment|
Now without further ado, my Go Red for Women & Valentine's Day Heart Healthy Strawberry, Dark Chocolate Smoothie!
I enjoyed this smoothie with my children, 3 of my favorite Valentines so the recipe will make an entire blender full. You can cut it in half for less or stash the rest in the refrigerator! It's so delicious but it has the heart healthy ingredients of dark chocolate, strawberries, and yogurt!
Ingredients & Directions
2/3 cup of your favorite dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips
4 cups of frozen strawberries
1 cup of Vanilla Yogurt (I like Stonyfield Farms organic French Vanilla)
3 cups of Milk (almond milk or soy milk are also good)
Now- here's the super easy part- throw it all in your blender, hold your lid on tight and pulse. I started mine on the chop or low setting for a few minutes before upping it to blend until smooth.
My husband and I don't drink wine but we have some wine glasses my mother in law gave us a couple of years ago so whenever it's a special occasion or we make fun drinks, the kids like when I put it in the "fancy glasses" so I did this and topped each off with 3 dark chocolate chips on top.
Enjoy your special Valentine's Day drink!