I’m convinced that blog post ideas are a lot like the weather: when it rains, it pours! I’ve got at least a half-dozen, half-baked posts in my head right now, and no time to spill them out “on paper”. But I do need to take a few moments to write about my latest cardiologist visit, before the details are lost in the cobwebs of my mind.
I took two heart-related tests over the past few weeks: an echocardiogram and a carotid ultrasound. They were both noninvasive, painless and even (dare I say?!) sort of relaxing! In my latest appointment with the cardiologist, we reviewed the results.
The echocardiogram showed a perfectly healthy heart with no defects such as a PFO (Patent Foramen Ovale). I mention this specific heart defect (a PFO) because of a random conversation I happened to have at work with a colleague last week: he had a stroke last fall (at age 51), and was very healthy otherwise (low blood pressure, good cholesterol levels, not overweight). The cause of his stroke was ultimately traced to a PFO, which he probably had for his entire life. Briefly, a PFO is a little hole in the heart that develops a little flap of tissue that can cause blood to “pool” longer than it should and, as a result, begins to clot. The clot can then travel to somewhere in the body, such as the brain, resulting in a stroke. In my co-worker’s case, his clot split in two pieces, each causing a stroke in 2 different portions of his brain at the same time. He was driving a car at the time of his stroke, but somehow managed to pull over without wrecking the car. His description of what a stroke felt like was fascinating (in a scientific way, of course): his legs and arms went completely numb, and his vision got extremely blurry, but he could think perfectly well. Nothing on his face drooped. He got medical help very quickly, including the insertion of a stint and surgery to close the PFO, all of which resulted in an excellent outcome. There is no hint of the brain trauma which he suffered. The thing about PFOs that caught my attention was that I recalled reading about them some years ago: apparently there is a link between PFOs and migraine with aura, the latter being a strange neurological issue that I first started experiencing when I was 10 years old. But, no PFOs for me, apparently, which is great news!
The second test, a carotid ultrasound, revealed that my arteries are as clean as a whistle — no blockage or build-up at all! This news came as something of a surprise, despite my good cholesterol levels, because my family history is not favorable in this respect. Both sets of grandparents suffered from clogged arteries, and died rather young (in their 70’s). I guess that I am living proof that a healthy diet and lifestyle can at least partially compensate for crappy genes!
On one hand, all this news is excellent. On the other hand, if vascular/heart problems are ruled out, then what on earth is the deal with my hand (and arm)? The doc would like to perform one more test to further rule out vascular problems: a stress echocardiogram. The idea is the same as for an echocardiogram, except that I will be monitored while walking on a treadmill. Not such a bad thing: I’ll get in a good workout while taking out time for another medical test. If only I could figure out how to be as productive while locked up in an MRI tube, I’d be the master of multi-tasking!