Monday, May 18, 2009

Heart Attack

Last November, I wrote:

"Last September, when I was in what may have been the best shape of my life for bike riding, I managed to nearly fall off my bike riding up a steep hill in a fairly high gear."

Less than two weeks after that post, I found myself on the floor, consciously aware that I seemed to be having a heart attack. For ten minutes, I had been in denial of the symptoms - indigestion, lightheadedness, nausea, sweating. Within 90 minutes, I was under the proverbial knife and in the recovery room. A small tube - a stent - now holds open an artery in my heart that had become completely blocked, with plaque and/or a blood clot.

Why I had a heart attack I will never know. I do know that being in good physical condition does not confer immunity from hear disease, although it certainly may moderate it. I suspect genetics, stress and too much ice cream after an otherwise healthy meal were important factors.

Anyway, I received treatment so quickly that I was back on my bike five days after my heart attack, which was when I saw my new cardiologist for the first time. His only advice was to take it easy for three weeks, until I had my scheduled stress test and ultrasound of my heart. Those procedures showed I had insignificant damage to my heart, and I seem to be in even better physical condition now than before my heart attack, a little over five months ago. Yesterday, I pedaled up a relentlessly long grade that at times reached 14%. It was as easy - or as difficult - as it was when I climbed that hill before my heart attack.

Lesson learned: be aware of the symptoms of a heart attack, and act quickly to seek medical help. The quicker help is found, the better the likelihood of staving off death, or at least physical incapacitation.

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