Around this time time last year, I had just returned to work from my brief maternity leave and was missing Sebastian like crazy. I was only allowed six weeks off following his birth because I had just started a new job and didn’t have enough time built up for FMLA benefits. I was so looking forward to the three-day holiday weekend filled with the baby snuggles that I wasn’t getting during the week while Sebastian was in daycare. We didn’t have anything planned for the Memorial Day Weekend except for a picnic that I had been looking forward to for a while.
Are you wearing red?
I hope so because today is National Wear Red Day in order to raise awareness of heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases that affect women. According to the website, “cardiovascular disease in the U.S. kills approximately one woman every 80 seconds. The good news is that 80 percent of cardiac events may be prevented with education and lifestyle changes. Go Red For Women advocates for more research and swifter action for women’s heart health.”
The whole month of February is Heart Health Month. In the past, I didn’t give this topic much thought, being a young and healthy woman. This year, as you might imagine, it holds a much deeper meaning for me. You see, I am a heart attack survivor.
I don’t have heart disease and I had no other risk factors except pregnancy. However, I made it a point to know the warning signs (I can thank my anxiety for that) and it really did save my life. So, I encourage all of you to take a minute to think about what you’re doing for your heart and then take a few steps to do better. If you don’t know how, a good place to start is the NC Division of Public Health’s website. And while you’re there, you can read the interview I did with them.
Today I’m wearing red for myself and for my son, Sebastian. I’m lucky to still be here to love him and to take care of him. He’s the best reason I need to take care of my heart. So, please take care of your heart so it can take care of you.
Why do you wear red?
Skip. Like what happens when you hear a loud clap of thunder that makes you jump up out of your chair, but instead I’m just sitting at my desk in my quiet office, staring at the computer screen.
Flutter. Like the butterflies you get in your stomach when you’re nervous, but instead it happens in my chest while I’m sitting quietly on the couch, watching the evening news.
Race. Like when you’re watching your favorite sports team hit the winning shot right at the buzzer, but instead I’m sitting in a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam.
These are the peculiar sensations I’ve been feeling in my chest lately. For the average person, they’re no big deal. For the anxious person, they’re pretty common. For someone who is about 3 months post-heart attack like me, they’re cause for concern. My primary care physician thought that these sensations were simply due to stress. She made me go to the cardiologist, who agreed that it was probably just stress because everything else looked fine, but hooked me up to a holter monitor just to be sure.
A holter monitor is a small, portable monitor that measures your heart’s rhythm. I wore this monitor for 48 hours last week. Every time I felt a skip, a flutter, or a racing sensation, I pressed a button on the side to record the sensation in the results and then I described in a little journal exactly what I felt and what I was doing when I felt it. At the end of the two days, someone read the monitor and compared it to the notes in my journal to figure out what was causing my heart to act up like this.
My two biggest fears regarding the results were on opposite ends of the spectrum. On one hand, I was afraid that the results would come back totally normal and would not show anything wrong. You’d think this is the best case scenario, but for me and my anxious mind, it would mean that I’m just crazy and/or hallucinating these sensations when I absolutely KNEW I wasn’t. On the other hand, I was afraid that the results would come back showing something catastrophic, like my heart was giving out and I only had a few more days to live, all the while wondering how I even made it this long.
I got the results back this week and, luckily, they were right where I’d want them to be, comforting every so slightly my chaotic mind. They found that my heart rhythm is normal and that the ‘fluttering’ sensations correlated with occasional premature heart beats. These are benign but can feel strange or abnormal. Ultimately, there is no clinical concern but I should try to control my stress levels, as stress exacerbates the prematurely timed beats.
So, I’m not going to die of heart failure any time soon, which is good news. I do feel the occasional skip and flutter but my mind doesn’t automatically assume the worst. I’m working on addressing the stress in my life, which is extremely difficult given that I’m a new mom with a hectic work schedule. I’m slowly getting to a point where, when I feel my heart make its weird beats, it feels a little more like this:
Skip. Like when I see Nick and Sebastian after a long day and it makes my heart skip a beat.
Flutter. Like when my closed eyelashes lightly brush against Nick’s closed eyelashes during a long kiss.
Race. Like when Sebastian is about to roll over/crawl for the first time and I’m so nervous for him but I know he’s strong and can do it.
Hi, I’m Nikki. This is where I blog about my life and personal style. I’m a wife and mom, public health professional, sushi lover, wine enthusiast, and coffee snob. Welcome to my little corner of the world where I try to lead by example!