Heart Broken

Week 5

This week has been the most challenging yet of the Back to Health program. At least emotionally.

The Test

One of the tests Dr Ooi recommended was a CT Angiogram. Basically a set of images taken of the heart to check what’s going on. The procedure itself was easy enough; chest x-rays, ECG, then lay on a bed with a cannula in the arm while a die is injected and the CT scanner does it’s magic. Aside from the machine requiring a reboot due to “technicians fiddling with it last night” the day was good.

Not scary at all

The results

I’ve mentioned before that Dr Ooi (Simon) is a pretty cool guy, so easy to talk to, never in a rush and a bit of a geek as well. Our weekly visits had us discussing everything from his HP 11C calculator to the merits of Apple changing the keyboard design. My latest visit was going to be a little different. The report from the Radiologist had revealed some not so pleasant results:

LAD. Poorly demonstrated but large segment of calcified plaque proximally extending into the D1. Difficult to quantify the extent but likely more than 50% stenosis. Small calibre.

Circumflex artery – Non Dominant vessel. Small calibre. Minor disease seen.

Breaking down some of the medical jargon: LAD means “left anterior descending”, D1 is the first diagonal. In essence I have some blockages happening in my heart.

When you first hear that it doesn’t make sense. My cholesterol has never been high, yes, I carried (and still do) a lot of excess fat, but heart disease? My first instinct was to laugh. Second was denial.

Emotions & Questions

For a minute I just sat and stared at Simon, not sure what was really going through my mind. He gently asked “are you okay?”, I think if I had to describe the feeling, it would be “numb”. My mind buzzing at 100 miles an hour, what did this mean, was I going to die? that’s not possible, I’m only 45 years old FFS! Did they get it wrong? I don’t suffer any chest pains. What do I do now? Can I still train? What does “disease” and “50% stenosis” mean anyway and what caused it?

My research showed the common causes:

  • Smoking
  • Elevated cholesterol levels
  • Diabetes
  • Age (men under 75 years old and women older than 75)
  • Family or personal history of coronary artery disease or carotid artery disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Inactivity or sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity

The items in bold were all factors for me. While my cholesterol has never been “high” it was not in the healthy range. My grandfather died from a heart attack. High blood pressure is something I’ve suffered with in recent years. I’ve been considered obese for quite some time and as a software developer I tend to spend most of my time sat down all day.

One thing I have been doing each day of the program is providing a Facebook live to the group to share my thoughts and feelings. I sat in the carpark out side the medical centre and did just that. It was a sobering and somewhat difficult process. Then I started sharing my news with the family. FaceTime with mum and dad (overseas) was okay, I’m a positive kind of guy so I put the “she’ll be right mate” spin on it, nothing to worry about here. A flurry of messages to the kids (well adults really) and then my wife.

After that, I sat and cried. I felt overwhelmed. Angry. Scared.

It was time for action, I will not let this define me, or dictate to me. Circumstances do not define a man, they merely reveal his character, usually to himself.

The Treatment

The first thing Doc did was prescribe low dosage Aspirin, this helps thin the blood and therefore prevents clots. It was also described that should any of the plaque break away it would do so in smaller pieces therefore reducing the risk of a heart attack.

I have booked in to see a heart specialist on the Gold Coast where more tests can be run, specially a Stress ECG and Echo. This will help determine the current impact of whatever is going on in my heart and help me further understand the implications.

Next I want to reduce or remove the blockage, and ironically the best proven way to do that is diet. Specifically a whole food plant based diet. The same as I have been on throughout the program. What was most interesting is that recent studies have proven that a WFPBD will allow the arteries to start the necessary reversal process. It was a no-brainer for me, I booked an appointment with Robyn Chuter, the results of this meeting will be next weeks post.

You can catch up on my previous posts by clicking the links below