Monday, February 6, 2012

Beating Coronary Artery Disease

So I am watching the 2012 Super Bowl, and am very excited about the upcomming halftime show with Madonna. Started getting a little bit of chest pain. No, that is not exactly how it came down. I had been noticing a bit of chest pain in the right pectoral muscle throughout the day. Later as I am watching the Super Bowl, the pain persisted I finally decided that this was not anything to mess around with, as I had had a very serious heart attack 5 years earlier. So the wife and I head to our local hospital ER in Mena, Arkansas for evaluation. Chest x-ray, ECG, cardiac enzymes were all coming up normal. Last test would be to take some nitroglycerin to see if it would make the pain go away. If it did it would point to it being angina, if the pain remains, then it is probably something else. Nitro had no effect, so again, it is not indicating a cardiac related incident.

The attending ER doc had contacted my Cardiologist in Little Rock, and they both felt it best that I be transferred by ambulance to the Heart Hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas. A non eventful trip, and upon arrival they do all the same tests. They again are all negative.

Now I had already told my wife that if they transferred me to the Heart Hospital, that there will be no way for me to get out of there without them doing an Angiogram. And I was correct. Nurses had informed me that that was the doctors intention. So I am off to sleep at 3:30 am and will see what the morning brings.

Yeah..... they are riding me hard to have the procedure. I finally cave in, and agree despite the fact there is nothing pointing to this pain being cardiac related. The doc explained that this would be the definitive test to rule whether this is a cardiac issue or simply a muscle pain. Plus he explained that while doing the cath that they would be able to do any intervention such as plasty or stint to improve any coronaries that may be showing continued worsening since my initial heart attack almost 5 years. At that time a stint was placed in the Left Descending Coronary which was 100 percent occluded at that time, and 60 percent occlusion in the other arteries.

The doctor explained that the catheter would be inserted through the radial artery rather than the femoral, and the doctor explained this will greatly reduced post op pain and recovery time in the hospital. In fact if he does not do plasty or stint that I would be able to go home that day very same day! When I am returned to my room I am informed that I would be able to go home on this day. No procedures other that the catheterisation and dye had been done. Even better news was that the doctor showed how my level of occlusion in my coronaries had gone from 60% occluded to showing a 20% improvement!. He explained that this is very rare, but a very good sign that the combination of my dietary changes and my magic pills I take to lessen plaque build up was being very effective. He stated that less than 5% of the population sees actual decrease in plaque build up, and usually are only able to halt or slow the progress of the disease. Well, this is very encouraging news indeed! Over the past 5 years after my heart attack I was hopeful that my dietary changes combined with my meds would have a significant impact. All this time the Doctor did not have a very a very encouraging outlook, as he explained that the fact that I had experienced such severe plaque build up at my young age, that it would be very probable that I would need repeat stinting within a few years to the other coronaries that were involved.

Now it looks like I am reversing the disease with significant decrease in the plaque that took decades for me to build, I had now opened the occlusions from 60 percent occluded to 20 percent improvement in less than 5 years. These past few years, despite the fact that I had been very lucky to survive the initial heart attack and was very pleased to have these extra years, I did walk around with a dark cloud hanging over my head. I felt like a walking time-bomb just waiting for the next coronary to occlude, causing more heart damage or worse. Now I see the dark cloud being washed away with the knowledge that I am indeed having a very favorable change in my cardiac health.

I spent most of my life as an athlete, competing in racquetball, Mountain Bike Racing, Road Racing and running. All this was great fun, but I, like many, felt that because I was so active that I could eat and drink anything I wanted. Boy was I wrong. For an even starker example of this... Wiki the story about Jim Fix, the author of Running, who died of coronary artery disease as a top athlete that also ate anything he wanted and as much as he wanted. It is never too late to make adjustments in one's life. Giving up a little of something for huge rewards down the road.

I almost killed myself at the age of 53 by eating all the crap I ate. Thus is the diet for many Americans. I loved pastries, candy bars, cola drinks, fatty meats, and on and on. I stayed trim, looked healthy but inside I was rotting away. So, many of the mentioned foods, I either totally eliminated or severely cut back. This of course had to be replaced with more wholesome foods. Plenty of info out there on the web on all of this. Don't ignore it.... It is real, and I am very, very lucky to be living proof.

So what was that chest pain about. Best guess is that I had pulled my pectoral muscle while doing some chainsaw work the previous day.

Read my account of my first Heart Attack Here!

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