Wednesday, October 26, 2005

problems of the heart

I had to go to the hospital Saturday night. There were several people in the waiting room and I was thinking I should have brought a paper back, but I didn't have to wait. I guess when you are overweight and fortyish and you tell them that your heart isn't working right, they take it pretty seriously.

I've never had any hint of heart trouble before. Not even high blood pressure. But for the previous two or three weeks I've been having problems with my heart. Whenever I lay down, my heart would race and I would feel short of breath. Then Friday night on my way home from work, I started to feel that way in the car. My pulse felt really fast, I estimated it a over 100 bpm. So, genius that I am, I decided that I just needed some exercise. I stopped in at the gym (which I hadn't visited for nearly a month) and did a bit of bicycling.

I was using one of those exercise bikes that measures your heart rate and adjusts the tension to keep your heart rate at a target number. My target number was 114 bpm and I was there in seconds. I felt really bad at first. My chest felt constricted, I felt light-headed, and I even worried about passing out once or twice. Things got a little better as I continued, and I kept going for 24 minutes (my usual time).

The next day I woke up feeling light-headed. My heart was still racing. Since I don't learn from my mistakes, I went for a walk down to the beach. This means a climb back up some stairs --probably equivalent to six or seven floors. Again, I was afraid that I was going to pass out on the way up.

Hours later, my heart was still racing and I still felt light headed. And that was sitting down. When I got up, I felt again like I might pass out. So, about 7pm I decided I'd better go to the hospital.

They did a bunch of tests and took a chest X-ray and the doctor said there was nothing wrong with me. He said he thought it wasn't a heart problem --it was a breathing problem. I was under a lot of stress; I was all tensed up with my shoulders hunched forward and I wasn't breathing deeply enough. When my body got alarmed by the lack of oxygen, it would shoot me some adrenalin to get my heart rate and breathing up.

Since then, I've been trying to be conscious of my breathing and my posture. It seems to help.

I suspect that the problem is not only the stress, but the fact that my pants are too tight, so I'm finally doing something about the weight I've gained since I moved to an apartment right down the street from a McDonald's. No more Big Macs. No more strawberry shakes (sigh). But I'm not buying new pants, dammit. In a week or so, my pants should be comfortable again.

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