Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A simple problem made complex

In 2005, the year I would retire on the last day to start a new life and career, I decided with my physician to get a more complete checkup than the standard annual physical which I didn't have very often anyway.

The main reason is that since the early 1980's I had been plagued with a simple problem, or so I thought but never worried or wondered about it. Whenever I started my run for the day my heart would race quickly and I would be out of breath in the first quarter to half mile.

I usually slowed down to a walk or even stopped and after a minute or so, I would be ok. My heart rate lowered to the normal rate during the run and my breathing was consistently normal for the run. This has lasted ever since doing anything physically stressful.

Well, the cardiologist found my heart was fine with no blockages except on very one small artery on the bottom of the heart and really inconsequential, normal pumping volumes and only a small leak on one valve indistinguishable from Rheutmatic Fever I had when I was 3 and the normal wear and tear of age.

Then she said I had a ~20% blockage of my pulmonary artery from the heart. It's the artery which carries the oxygen deprived blood to the lungs, which explains why I was running out of breath shortly into exercise or activity. She noted my body found ways to compensate for this blockage.

First she said there were a few extra arteries around the blockage to the lungs which helped restore the blood flow. Second, after looking puzzled at the test results, said it's likey there are extra nerves to the heart which causes the rapid increase shortly into any exercise or activity.

This is because they found in the tests my heart rate can accelerate from normal to over 180 beats per second faster than normal, in short a straight line up on the heart rate monitor I wore for 24 hours including during runs.

She said it was a way the body compensated by increasing the blood flow to the lungs to get the necessary oxygen into the blood and out to the body. They also found my heart has a slower than normal return rate, it just doesn't want to slow down after going faster.

The test results also showed the blockage was caused by a high cholesterol level, over 200, probably going back 20 years or more when the blockage originally started. Ok, easily solved with diet and drugs, or so it seemed.

And this is where a simple problem became complex.

Well, I changed my diet and dropped my cholesterol to below 200 and it's continues to drop with each successive test, but not where it will help reduce the blockage enough, not without drugs. So she put me on statin drugs.

But we discovered my body and mind can't tolerate statin or the over-the-counter equivalent (Red Rice Yeast). They make me tired, too tired to run, and excerbate my Dysthymia into depression. So, that experiment ended where the only course was diet and exercise.

And that's where I'm at, just diet and exercise, and have routine cholesterol tests to see if we can get it to below 100 and hopefully near 70 where the body will start to dissolve the blockage and reabsorb the plague into the blood stream where it will be removed.

And that's the plan and what I'm doing. I'd love to get back to running but with the Siatic nerve and shin splints it's just walking. I've tested the body and legs running for short distances and it's ok, but getting back to the 3+ miles 4-5 days a week I was 5 years ago is something for hope than reality for now.

But it's a good future considering everything and sure beats the alternative.

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