Be Still My Heart

It’s a freaky feeling when your heart, which has been rhythmically doing a sedate cha-cha for 60 years, suddenly decides it wants to give hip-hop a try. I am all for change, but make no mistake about it—I am a cha-cha kind of girl.

For a few months, though, my heart was in a hip-hop frame of mind. The most usual were heart palpitations, likely brought on by stress or too much Vitamin B12 (I’m sensitive, I find.) The worst of these episodes turned out to be atrial fibrillation, where the top chambers of your heart stop pumping for a while, causing blood to pool in the lower chambers. You know how gravy thickens as it cools?  That’s what can happen with the unpumped blood.  It can even produce some clots, so A-fib (as we locals call it) can be serious.  All kinds of things can cause it—hypertension, heart valve disease, and pulmonary embolism among them.  The Cleveland Clinic, which specializes in Afib , explains it much better than I can.

The first event happened in the wee hours after my 60th birthday party. I went way over my 2-glasses-of-wine limit.  I behaved not like a 60-year-old, but an 18-year-old, and my heart rebelled. This reason for experiencing A-fib is so common it even has a nickname—“holiday heart”.  I don’t know about you, but my holidays are rarely that exciting. So I chalked it up to a little over-enthusiastic frivolity and went back to bed.

But it happened again 2 weeks later. And 2 weeks after that. I had been a well-behaved senior citizen during that time, and don’t have any risk factors, so was concerned and frightened by these now-common occurrences. Fortunately, after an emergency room visit and extensive testing that cost Blue Cross lots of money, the doctors declared it “Lone Atrial Fibrillation,” which means they haven’t a clue. Though it can be happen only once, it can also happen occasionally, but rarely is it chronic.  Whew—that is seriously good news!  The not-so-good news is that alcohol, chocolate, cheese, and caffeine can trigger it. The caffeine I have licked, but don’t expect me to give up my glass of wine or moderate doses of chocolate to avoid another episode.

What I will do is keep eating healthily, and working out steadily. And keep my fingers crossed that my heart decides to stick with the cha-cha.

Be well.

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