The Day I Didn’t Have a Heart Attack

Not long ago I woke in the middle of the night feeling, well, not right. I was having a hard time putting it into words and had never felt something quite like it. No specific pain, it felt like my body was throbbing, mostly centered in my torso but I could feel it everywhere. No shortness of breath, none of the signs that would normally be associated with a heart attack.

I managed to get back to sleep eventually but it was restless and light. I woke in the morning feeling terrible, both from lack of sleep and the throbbing or pounding sensation persisted, although not quite as bad as in the middle of the night. Unsure what was happening, and not wanting to ignore the situation completely, I went to the ER. My BP was high. Not astronomical, but higher than it should be.

For the couple weeks before I had already noticed my BP was elevated and gone in to see my Dr. She adjusted my meds a bit to bring things back under control. I went through a period some years back when I was feeling out of sorts and it turned out that my BP was heading into pre-hypertension regions. It took a few months, but we finally found the right Rx to get me feeling good again.

I’d never had an episode like the recent night that ended up with an ER visit though.

Many tests later, including a treadmill stress test, ECG, 24-hour monitor and blood panels, my heart is looking to be in good shape. No sign that I’ve experienced a heart attack. That’s the good news. The not so good news is that there is still no clear answer as to why I was feeling the way I was.

Over the course of the tests and treatments, the triggering symptoms have eased substantially. The most likely diagnosis is the event was stress induced. I was under quite a bit of stress at the time and was not doing much outside work to deal with it.

Which brings me to the punchline.

I need to do a better job managing my stress.

I got the expected recommendations from the Dr.

  • Eat a healthy diet: I already eat pretty well but do have room to improve, particularly on what I eat for lunch when I’m at the office. At home we eat mostly organic and very little that comes from a box or is packaged. When I’m at the office though I tend to find something at the nearby mall food court but I do generally go for the healthier options.
  • Get more exercise: This is a big one! I wasn’t exercising much beyond 2 mile walks a few times a week. My doctor recommended 5 days cardio (30 minutes) and 2 days resistance training. I’ve been building back up to this going out running more regularly but have not started the resistance training just yet.
  • Avoid stressful situations: Easy guidance, difficult to accomplish. I am usually very easy going about stuff but I do get stressed when there are many demands on my time, all with looming deadlines. Combine that with a tendency to procrastinate on things and it’s a recipe of doom. There are many strategies to improving the situation here that I’ll be exploring.
  • Get a good night sleep: I have not been sleeping well lately. I go to bed at a good hour, but have not had restful night of sleep in some time. I expect that the increased exercise program will have the most impact on both my stress level and ability to sleep well.

Coming up on two months after the ER visit I am feeling much better than I was at that time. We’ve tweaked my prescription and that’s helped. And the increased exercise program is helping. I have had better nights of sleep, but I’ve also had some pretty lousy ones.

When I first thought of the name for my blog Action A Day I was thinking more along the lines of dealing with my procrastination and getting things done. That idea is still there and is the central theme. Recent events have given me a second, perhaps more important, interpretation that I need to be getting some physical action every day for my health.

So going forward, two tenants:

  • Be Active
  • Take Action

Create the life you want to live.

Posted by Ken

Toastmaster, Woodworker, Craft Beer Enthusiast and dutiful supporter of three demanding house cats. I'm also an experienced Software Engineering Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the Information Technology and Services industry. Skilled in Operating System Development, Unix, SPARC Servers, Wordpress and PHP.

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