Posts Tagged ‘Microvascular Coronary Disease’

February is fast approaching.  The ‘red’ month… and I don’t mean Valentine’s Day. 

It’s a fantastic thing that a whole month is dedicated to raising heart disease awareness.  Anytime attention is focused on an issue that affects millions of people, it is a worthy cause. 

Overall, much is being done to spotlight what can be done to prevent heart disease.  Heard this one before?  ‘Check your numbers’; ‘Exercise regularly’; blah blah blah.  It would seem that the only awareness being raised is on how best to avoid it.

Since we don’t have that option, what we need now is information on how best to live with heart disease. 

Come To Terms

There.  I said it.  It’s like anything in life; you win some, you lose some.  So what if I have heart disease.  Everybody has something to contend with.  What’s important is how you view it.  Does it define you?  Or, by living your life the best you can, do you conquer it?

 Challenge Yourself

Mentally, not physically.  That’s a given.  Truth be told, I spent the better half of the day in bed.  However, the other half of the day was spent doing the things I love most.  What is it that you love to do most?  Stop to think before you answer.  Sometimes the more profound realizations come when you are quiet enough to hear them.

 Continue To Learn

The beauty of the Internet is that it continues to evolve.  Six years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find anything on the Internet regarding Microvascular Heart Disease.  That is beginning to change.  So, we need to change.  We need to continue to read and to research and to learn all we can about our condition.  You never know… perhaps we can, in some small way, dictate the direction of our care.

 Stretch Forward

Like a cat waking up from a nap.  Your condition might be static, but you don’t need to be.  Expand your horizons.  Volunteer.  Take a course.  Read that book you’ve been meaning to.  Remember, its the small victories that add to the richness of your life. 

Make this a February to remember.  Join the most important cause imaginable… yours.




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‘Heart Disease’.  With these two words, the lives of millions of women are changed in an instant.

While there is a sense of relief in knowing why your heart hurts, it is impossible to predict how this knowledge will affect your life.

Beyond the questions lie the reality that your life has taken a dramatic turn.  Although chronic by nature, your viewpoint of your condition doesn’t have to be.  It would seem, though, that this is a lesson best learned in retrospect.


As in ‘hindsight is’.  I’ve always thought this to be a strange saying.  It suggests that looking back is the only way to see if your chosen path was correct.  It makes sense, I guess.  Looking behind is the best vantage point from where to view the road ahead.  Only from this perspective can we know if we’ve made the best use of our knowledge and time.  This is the place where changes can be made and attitudes can be adjusted. 

Panoramic View

If you’ve seen ‘Pride and Prejudice’, you’ll recognize this scene:  She stands on a precipice, wind blowing in her face, clouds float by intermittently shading her closed eyes.  When she opens them, she has made a decision; one that she sees only now; now that she’s found time to stop and see where life has taken her.  Though probably not the best time to mediate as she is standing on a cliff. 

 Stepping Back From The Edge

Taking a moment to meditate on the past year has brought me to some astounding conclusions.  First and most importantly, I’m not alone.  While the numbers already suggest that, it’s the stories we share with one another that count most.  Secondly, the decisions we now make matter absolutely.  Will be chose to learn and share and live our lives or will we waste the time we’ve been given. 

While heart disease may be in your future, how you get there is your choice.

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What’s worse; suspecting you have heart disease or knowing for certain that you do?

If you answered that fear lies more in suspicion, you’d have research to back you up.  But do we really need research to tell us what we already know?

Stating the Obvious

Congratulations, Science!  Another fine example of useless information disguised as ‘research’.  It’s ridiculous to think that good money was spent researching what we already know to be true.  Of course we fear the unknown; especially when it comes to our health.  When something goes wrong, we turn to a doctor.  We ask questions.  When answers don’t come, our minds run wild.  Then we question ourselves.  “What is causing this?  Can they operate?  Am I going to die?”   

Deliver Answers; Not Sound Bites

Anymore it seems that we, Joe Patient, need to rely more on ourselves than our doctor.  While it is true that no doctor can be completely versed in all-things heart disease, one would hope that they could recognize their own limitations. 

We read so much about heart disease; how stress contributes to it, how blood pressure affects it.  But it’s what we do with the information that defines us.  Do we allow what we read to embolden us or lull us into quiet complacency?  Do we rely too heavily on the ‘professionals’ out there or do we take a more proactive approach to our health?  Are we waiting for them to make it right?

Stop Waiting

So much of our time is spent waiting.  We wait for appointments.  We wait for test results.  We wait for answers.  Waiting takes your power away and places it in the hands of someone who doesn’t have chest pain like you do.

An ancient proverb states that ‘Expectation postponed is making the heart sick’. 

Waiting is a luxury your heart doesn’t have.

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If asked if the current state of your heart disease is acceptable, how would you answer?

It’s a tough one; I know.  Just yesterday I was asked this very question.  “If, when we first met, your chest pain and quality of life was terrible, 10 being terrible, what number would you assign your quality of life now?” asked my super-hero of a doctor, Dr. Bairey-Merz.

Looking her straight in the face, I responded, “That’s a tough thing to quantify”.

How do you assign a number to the quality of your life?  Of course, I understood the question.  I realized that she needed a figure to determine where I am on my journey.  How else is she to know what to try next. 

Leaning back in my chair, I looked down at my hands and fiddled with my ring.  Slowly raising my eyes, I assigned a number to my life. 

“I estimate my quality of life currently to be a 3”.  Her face relaxed a bit, but I saw no smile.  “About 75% better than when we first met; would you agree?” she asked. 

That’s when it occurred to me.  Her face gave her away.  This was the best it would ever be.

The Best Compared To What?

Every six weeks I visit my wonderful doctors.  With each passing week, however, something very interesting has happened.   My visits with both Dr. Bairey-Merz and the fabulous Dr. Margo Minissian focus more on managing my condition and less on curing me.  ‘Curing me’….  Only now am I beginning to realize how stupid I was to think that I would be cured.  After all, I have Microvascular heart disease.  You can’t operate on the tiny vessels around your heart. 

Why Compare?

I know my life will not be returning to the old ‘normal’.  To be sure, 75% better is better than 0% better.  Even still, the problem isn’t so much in the number assigned to my quality of life as in having to assign a number. 

It’s hard not to compare.  But remember; comparisons do one of two things; they either make you feel bad because others have it better than you or make you feel better because others have it worse than you.  Either way you lose.

So, I will stop comparing my current self to my old self.  I will stop comparing what I could do then to what I can do now.  I’ll stop comparing — period. 

Call it a compromise if you will.  But life is worth living.  Nothing compares to that.

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On February 18th, the good folks at The European Heart Journal published their findings in an interesting study.  They determined that people who are usually happy, enthusiastic and content are less likely to develop heart disease than those who tend not to be happy.  They believe that they have been successful in showing an independent relationship between positive emotions and coronary heart disease.

So, in a nutshell, the better your outlook on life, the less chance you will develop heart disease.  Well, that’s all well and good for all the ‘normals’ out there.  But what about the 8 million women currently living with heart disease in the U.S.?  To have them tell it, that’s a whole lot of ladies in a constant state of funk.  Am I to believe that I have heart disease because I have a bad attitude?

I refuse to believe my condition was caused because I’m a grouch now and then.  Truth be told, I’m quite happy; even with this stupid disease.  I’ve always been rather optimistic about the future.  So, before I let this study get the better of me and send me into anger management, I thought it best to accentuate the positive.

Can’t VS Can

Yes, having heart disease sucks.  There, I said it.  However, instead of beginning my next sentence with the words, “I can no longer…” I’m going to begin my next sentence with “Now I can…”

Now I can spend more time with my family.

Now I can better discern my physical and emotional needs.

Now I can better appreciate every single day of life that I’m given.

Now I get to ride in a motorized cart at Disneyland instead of using my legs like a sucker.

You get the idea.

The more we focus on the positive, the better our life will be.  That’s true with all things, and according to this study, especially as it affects heart disease.

So, tell me.  How would you complete this sentence?  “Now I can…”

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“Exercise?  Yeah, I know I should, but where do I begin?”

This question takes on a whole new meaning when asked by someone with a heart condition.  Instead of deciding which gym to join or which video to purchase, those of us in this distinguished group have bigger things to consider.  For instance, if my heart rate goes above a certain number, am I gonna die?!!?  It’s these types of questions that make your exercise choices very personal and specific.

I’ve heard it from my doctor; no doubt you have too.  ‘Exercise is an important part of keeping your condition under control’.  That’s all good and fine, but where do I begin?

Know Your Limits

The truth is, changes will need to be made to your past exercise routine.  As an example, I used to be able to ride my bike for miles and never break a sweat.  Now, just looking at my bike gets me winded.

Of course, there are many facets to heart disease.  No two conditions are alike and only your doctor is in the best position to offer specific recommendations.  That being said, here are some things to discuss with your doctor:

– Medication:  New medications can greatly affect your body’s response to exercise.  Before continuing with your current routine,    check to see that it is still safe.

– Heavy Lifting:  Check to see if lifting or pushing heavy objects (i.e. chores such as raking, shoveling, mowing, scrubbing) are ok.   Even chores we may have had no trouble with in the past now leave us tired.  Do only what you are able to do.

– Safe Exercises:  As for the old standards (lifting weights, use of a weight machine, jog, swim, etc.) ask first then do.

General Workout Tips for Heart Disease Patients

The good folks at WebMD have put together a fantastic list of do’s and don’ts that should be discussed with your doctor.

1.)  Be sure any exercise is paced and balanced with rest.

2.)  Avoid isometric exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups.  Isometric exercises involve straining muscles against other muscles or an immovable object.

3.)  Don’t exercise outdoors when it is too cold, hot, or humid.  High humidity may cause you to tire more quickly; extreme temperatures can interfere with circulation, make breathing difficult, and cause chest pain.  Better choices are indoor activities such as mall walking.  (Plus you can shop; that’s exercise, right??)

4.)  Stay hydrated. It is important to drink water even before you feel thirsty, especially on hot days.

5.)  Extremely hot and cold showers or sauna baths should be avoided after exercise.  These extreme temperatures increase the workload on your heart.

6.)  Steer clear of exercise in hilly areas.  If you must walk in steep areas, slow down when going uphill to avoid working too hard.  Monitor your heart rate closely.

7.)  If your exercise program has been interrupted for a few days (for example, due to illness, vacation, or bad weather), ease back into the routine.  Start with a reduced level of activity, and gradually increase it until you’re back where you started.

While dropping a quick 40 pounds may not be possible, focusing on long-term goals meant to increase your strength and stamina will keep you encouraged.  Find what works best for you and stick with it.  You’ll be glad you did.

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