Monday, August 17, 2009

And the Beat Goes On

The beat goes on, the beat goes on
Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain
La de da de de, la de da de da

Hey! I'm still here. What about you? Last Wednesday, with my last entry, I was just a day out of the hospital after my angioplasty, the medical procedure that removed/squished the plaque clogging up my left coronary artery, the artery aka The Widowmaker.

Don't tell the doctor, the one at the hospital who suggested I stay off my bike for ten days. Because last Friday it was time to mount up again. And in the process I conducted a science experiment to measure the effect of having a near normal flow of blood to my long-overworked heart.

Supplies needed:

- Bicycle
- One rectangular block of asphalt
- Heart Rate Monitor
- Test Subject

Purpose of the test: to measure the amount of change, if any, in the efficiency of my heart.

Procedures: Last December, my new cardiologist gave me permission five days after my heart attack to ride my bike. I discovered I could keep my heart rate several beats below 120 bpm if cycled a steady 16 mph. (At the time, the plan was to stay below 120 for a few weeks.)

Nine months ago, as I rode around the block, my left coronary artery was approximately 70% blocked. Yesterday, with that blockage mostly gone, I again cycled around the block at 16 mph. At that speed, I could barely break 100 bmp.

Conclusion: Increased blood flow is making it easier for my heart to work.

I've done some reading on the Web - about as scientific an undertaking as my experiment - about the build-up of plaque in coronary arteries. And what I've learned is far more certain than the result of my experiment: once it's in an artery, plaque is almost impossible to remove. Once it's there, plaque will also implacably continue to expand, in me and in you, too, if you have coronary disease.

Indeed, despite my awesomely healthy diet, my epic exercise, and my medication, the 70% blockage I had in December turned perhaps into a 90% blockage by August. There are still other deposits of plaque in my arteries, too, but in far lesser amounts.

It might be years for plaque to once again threaten my life. Perhaps technology will have advanced to new levels that will help permanently clear my arteries of plaque. Perhaps, if the fates are kind, I'll have many more rides on my bike to take, innumerable photographs to make, and plenty of time to think about the meaning of life.

Yesterday, the third day in a row on my bike, I traveled as I did last Sunday with a contingent of the Los Angeles Wheelmen. I tagged along for the first easy 15 miles, and then I headed alone for home. While the slopes of the only two hills I rode over were similar to those that triggered my chest pain last week, this time out I felt no pain.

Which means it's time to make another ride, right now, down along the pleasant Ballona Creek bike path to Marina del Rey, at the edge of the broad Pacific Ocean. Pics to follow.

And soon enough it will be time to again assault the slopes of Mt. Lee, to determine if I can measure the agony or the ecstasy.

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