When your Heart Screams: “IT’S E‐R TIME!”

Thunder started when we left the movie theater. Clear skies outside but inside the car, my heart threatened to blow itself out from beneath my ribcage.

I feared an Alien replay.

Remember the movie monster that bursts out of the victim’s chest? I envisioned me the victim this go‐round. Inside DH’s brand new car.

Be calm, I whispered between breaths, now shortening into wispy gasps. Gather info. Focus on facts.

I googled “women over 60 symptoms heart attack.” 

No mention of racing heartbeat. Or shortness of breath I had earlier blamed on a recent cold. I wasn’t dizzy, tired, vomiting, or sweaty. Neither neck, jaw, shoulder, or back ached.

Relax, you aren’t about to die.

Car grew hot. Sweat bathed my face.

Can you raise the air conditioning, please?” I asked. My chest began to hurt. I imagined Michelangelo placing a block of marble square atop my breastbone. Chill. You don’t hurt anywhere. Don’t over‐react. Gather data first. Worry later.

DH neared the last traffic light. Fairness dictated honesty.

Hmm, I think maybe there’s something going on with my heart,” I force‐wrapped calm around every syllable. “It’s racing, like thunder. A bit of shortness of breath. When we get home, I’ll take my blood pressure. We’ll go from there.”

Minutes later, the numbers screamed, HELP ME!

My heart joined the chorus. My god!

FYI: Normal blood pressure is 130/80; pulse under 90.

I tore the paper from the pad and race‐walked into the den.

We’re going to the emergency room,” I forced an even voice. Don’t scare the driver. “My pulse is 188. Too fast. I need help.”

Thirty five years of me, and DH knows my sound. He whirled around, said nothing but grabbed his keys, wallet, and my hand.

Urgent care or ER?” He knows I like choices.

I barked back, “ER. And turn up that AC. I’m sweating bullets.”

Less than a day later, the diagnosis followed innumerable tests.

SVT with Left BBB. That’s Supraventricular Tachycardia with Left Atria Bundle Branch Block. 

Translation: my heart beats too fast and it’s got a short in it.

Good news? Both involve easy fixes. White pill every morning and baby aspirin every other day.

The remaining ‘scrip is tougher: absolutely no caffeine (as in no chocolate ever again); 100% Mediterranean diet; keep exercising and meditating; minimize stress. 

I’ve had my share of health woes, which I’ve tried to keep off this blog. But, I learned on Friday that women over 60 are at HIGH risk for heart disease.

Even teetotalling, speed‐walking, pescatarians ( that’s fish‐eating vegetarians) who neither smoke nor take drugs can get blinded by what they believe “protects” them.

Truth is, sometimes the body needs extra tender loving care, especially as it ages. Here’s TLC for yours:

  • Exercise: 30 minutes/day, five days/week, non‐negotiable.
  • Diet: Mediterranean or DASH diets are most heart‐healthy.
  • Weight: Pounds appropriate to your height.
  • Smoking: Don’t. If you do, quit. Now.
  • Alcohol: Don’t. If you do, minimize how much.
  • Stress: Avoid as you can; counteract its toxicity with meditation.
  • Blood Pressure: Check yours regularly; ideal = 130/80, pulse under 90.

Four crisis response tips you can learn from my recent health (mis)adventure:

  • Trust your gut: When your body speaks, listen to what information it offers.
  • Stay calm: Information empowers; gather and sort it, then respond.
  • Pain or Blood: Ignore #2; seek medical attention.
  • Mind your mind: Your body depends on your brain to guide you; let it help.

Please: learn from my experience.

Start taking heart‐care of yourself.

You really don’t want to ride in a pink wheelchair.

Or stay on the maternity ward in an overcrowded hospital.

Screaming babies aren’t fun when your heart hurts.

6 Replies to “When your Heart Screams: “IT’S E‐R TIME!””

  1. I am SO happy it was not more serious and that you can manage it!! But how scary!!!!

    I, too, had a major scare this past February. In the car, one block away from Methodist ER (thank god) and an elephant climbs on my chest. Then this elephant begins to tighten my jaw. Well, I knew that meant heart problem for sure and after the light changed I prayed I could make it one block to the door of the ER. They took me right in — no name, no paperwork. BP 218. Shit!! I was attended to expertly and spent the night in observation. I have a congenital spastic heartbeat on occasion but this was something else. So rather than handle the hi BP naturally (which I had clearly failed at miserably) I am now on PB meds and doing great. OY. Getting old is NOT for sissies — as you know well!!

    1. Whoa, Rosa!!! Major scare is right!! I’ll take thunder bolts over elephant stomps but yikes! What’s in our mojo with BP woes? Ditto on the “took me right in” — I heard them call a Code 3 on me and knew from experience “yep, this is bad” — so thankful YOU got the life‐saving help you needed. I spent an observation night, too, and underwent a plethora of tests. They had to stop the treadmill stress test because the BBB spiked my heart rate back up to 170. I actually think getting older can be inspiring — if we’re willing to age gracefully with fighting spirit!!

  2. Man, Melanie, this is scary stuff. I ‘m so glad you did not mess around and got the care you needed. Hugs, my friend! You cannot die until you finish the damn book!
    Love you,
    Pat

    1. Scary is right. I was terrified but didn’t want to show it. Which is interesting b/c Chuck is one of the most solid souls in crisis I’ve ever known. Cough, cough — ‘damn book’ is right! Time to get it done. Now. Keep pushing me, dear friend! xoxo

  3. Oh Melanie, I frequently deal with tachycardia…started out as a symptom of Lyme Disease as the bacteria damaged my heart muscle. It now flares up when I am stressed but thank God medication seems to handle it. So glad to know you paid attention and got help. It is so scary and you described it perfectly…it feels like your heart is going to jump out of your chest. The first time it happened my heart rate was 188. You got good recommendations but damn, chocolate and coffee? My two favorite things in the world but you can do it. I sneak a little chocolate every now and then. So far I’ve only made one trip to the ER since I moved to SA, knock on wood.
    So happy you are okay!

    1. Our tach heart rates match: 188! I knew you were a Soul Sister; now you’re a Heart Sister! I’m moving caffeine into the same category as food: it’s only fuel. Now that my engine has aged, I can’t fill up with leaded gas anymore.

      Gotta have a sense of humor through this Aging Adventure!

      Glad you are OK, too, my dear friend!

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