When it come to your health – be proactive

Two words you never want to be associated with – “heart attack!” Well, I heard them last week. Yes, it was another setback and I let it get me down – temporarily. I heeded my own advice in the soon to be published THE WINNING MINDSET THAT SAVED MY LIFE.  I quickly changed my attitude from “poor pitiful me” to “I will beat this.”

I visited my cardiologist three weeks ago, complaining of chest discomfort when I exerted myself. I left the cardiologist’s office that day with a clean bill of health; my EKG was normal, and my stress test was “off the charts” great.  My cardiologist said to let him know if I still experiencing discomfort in a week or so and he would order a more invasive stress test – nuclear stress test.

A nuclear stress test (the name itself is intimidating!), or myocardial perfusion imaging, is a test that looks at the blood flow to the heart muscle. This is done while the heart is at rest and during exertion (at least 85% of the maximum heart rate).  The test uses a small amount of radioactive substance (injected in the arm)  to determine the health of the heart and blood flow to the heart. Before and after (stress) images are taken of the heart. The test takes 3 hours.   The analogy here would be comparing the blood flow to your heart the way gas flows to a car engine.  You could have a finely tuned engine, but if you have a narrowed fuel line, you would not be able to step on the gas and get the car to accelerate properly.

So, I made THAT  follow up call to my cardiologist 3 weeks later (I kept putting it off).  I know my body and knew there was something wrong. Despite having another “off the charts” stress test, the “after” images told a different story. A coronary angioplasty was ordered. During the angioplasty, the doctor inserted a thin tube called a catheter into the blood vessel in my arm (better the arm than the groin!). The catheter was pushed through the artery to a blocked area in my heart’s blood vessels. The doctor inflated a tiny balloon at the tip of the catheter and stretched the blocked vessel, so blood could flow freely. Unfortunately, this caused the blockage to shift to a smaller vessel and cause a heart attack. At the same time, complicating matters, the hospital lost power (and the generators did not come on!).  So, a one-hour procedure turned into 4 hours! When power was restored, the doctor inserted three metal devices (stents) to help the vessels stay open. The root cause was 80% blockage in the anterior interventricular branch of the left coronary artery, aka “the widow maker.”

My message; you have to be your own best advocate and listen to your body. In this case, I  listened to my body and took action. If it was not for my active lifestyle (and recognized the discomfort during exercise), the problem would not have been discovered until it was too late, resulting in death (“the widow maker”).  As with my cancer, the  coronary blockage had nothing to do with my lifestyle, but everything to do with genetics. Be proactive (not reactive) with your health and go to the doctor on a regular basis – don’t wait for something bad to happen.  As my Mom use to say, “listen to your body.  Pain is your body’s way of telling you there is something wrong.”

About the blogger @TomHulsey

Through two surgical procedures, Tom has a total 5-drug coated stents in his heart.

After Tom beat cancer and achieved his post-surgery goals (walking his daughter down the aisle and completing IRONMAN Lake Placid & the IRONMAN World Championship), he turned his focus to education and advocacy for men’s health. He is a Board Member at ZERO The End of Prostate Cancer, volunteers at the Baylor Scott & White Cancer Health & Wellness Center, and a Peer Reviewer & Mentor for the DoD’s (Department of Defense) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. He is the author of the soon-to-be released book, THE WINNING MINDSET THAT SAVED MY LIFE. Net proceeds from book sales will benefit to cancer research, awareness and education).

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