Feel Good Challenge with Highland Spring

Highland Spring is on a mission to encourage healthy hydration. Because when you’re 100% hydrated, you’re much more likely to be on top of your game – mentally, physically and emotionally.  I was asked if I’d like to take part in the feel good challenge and of course, I said yes!

For me, as a heart attack survivor, it is vital that I stay properly hydrated not only because it reduces the number of premature atrial contractions that I get, but it keeps my energy levels up.  I’ve learned this from experience and if my heart is playing me up, the first question I ask myself is: have I drunk enough water today?  If not, I top up immediately.

IMG_0785.JPG

Green tea, herbal tea and good old PG all count towards the two litres I drink a day, but  most important of all, is plain water, just as nature intended.  I know some people don’t like to drink unadulterated water, but luckily I enjoy it: iced, lukewarm, sparking or still – any will do.

During my spa break last month there was huge emphasis on hydration: we were encouraged  to drink water and herbal teas – there were jugs of water provided, topped up with fruit or cucumber: delicious.

img_0649

Research shows that 66% of Brits don’t feel they always drink enough water on a daily basis so Highland Spring have provided some top tips on how to keep hydrated and feel good.

Did you know?

•         Drinking water can make you happier: brain scans show that when you’re properly hydrated the parts of your brain associated with anger, fear and alertness are de-activated.

•         Lots of us visit the doctors for fatigue each year, when actually the problem could be due to dehydration. Keeping hydrated can help give you the energy you need!

•         When you’re hydrated, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard. It’s much easier for your body to pump blood through the blood vessels to muscles

•         Staying hydrated before and during exercise helps avoid cramp. Hydration levels are affected by how long and how hard you are exercising, so if you are sweating or in a warm environment you might need to drink more than usual

For my personal challenge, I decided to have water with me on the go at all times.   Not difficult as it’s easy to slip a small bottle of water into your handbag, or fill up a re-usable water bottle for the gym.  I’ve also been taking a small bottle in my pocket for my weekly country walk.

Do you think you could find a way to add some extra water into your life?

IMG_0823.JPG

 

 

 

 

 

A Plea To Be Treated Holistically

I’m struggling with a few things at the moment and don’t know how to sort it out.  I have a number of medical problems that are being treated individually, but they seem to contradict one another in terms of treatment and what I really need is for someone to sit down and look at the whole blimmin’ lot holistically rather than treating each thing in isolation.

img_0139

If you read my blog you’ll know that I’m waiting on the results of the MRI/CT scan I had a couple of weeks ago for a suspected dissection to the carotid or vertebral artery.  I have a hospital appointment on Friday but I anticipate that this will deal with the one issue only. I’m guessing we will have a chat about stroke risk and how I can mitigate it.   What about all this other stuff though?

You also know about my heart attack, caused by SCAD.  Since this happened I’m left with premature atrial contractions which are irregular heart beats.  I’m told this is not serious or life threatening in most cases but I am prescribed a beta blocker for it.

Now the trouble with beta blockers is that they slow you down.  Not a bad thing you may say.  However, combined with my next problem, an underactive thyroid, then that makes me doubly slow.  If I have a few days of action, then I may spend the next couple of days in bed, good for nothing.

Well can’t you take levothyroxine for your thyroid? Well yes, but guess what, if I take the recommended dose I get more palpitations and I twitch incessantly at night.

So, if beta blockers make you slow and PACS are not dangerous, why take the beta blocker? Good question – I asked my GP to refer me to a SCAD specialist, which he duly did last November – nothing has happened.

I’m also told I have high cholesterol.  Must be down to diet you say.  Have you seen how much porridge I eat? Did you know that an underactive thyroid can raise your cholesterol? Would taking the correct dose of thyroxine sort it out? Who knows as I can’t tolerate it.

Why not take a statin then?  Great idea.  But don’t statins make your arteries more flexible?  Isn’t the reason I had a SCAD the result of over flexible arteries in my heart? Oh yeah! Back to the drawing board on that one then.

As you can see, I don’t know what to do.  If I put it in the hands of the professionals, which one’s advice do I follow, because I can assure you they all want to treat me with something different.

They want to fix whatever I have presented with and of course that makes sense, but I, you see, want to be treated as a whole person.  Who will look at all this stuff and make some sort of judgement call?

Who knows.   I don’t.

 

 

Getting Involved With The British Heart Foundation

In 2011, aged just 49, I had a heart attack.  It came out of the blue after a period of stress at home and at work.  It turns out I have a rare form of heart disease called spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD).  Often not diagnosed until post mortem, this disease claims the lives of many otherwise healthy young women and men who have no obvious predisposition to heart disease.

DSCF1222 - Copy

A SCAD is a tear in the coronary artery which creates a blockage to blood flow in the heart, resulting in angina, heart attack, or death.

SCAD has been likened to a lightening strike – it comes without warning and there is no way (yet) to predict or prevent it.

For six months after my heart attack, I had no idea it was attributed to SCAD. I  was bewildered and looking for answers.   It was during this time that I was most grateful to the British Heart Foundation for their support.

I was given leaflets at the hospital and one of the first things I did was ring the BHF helpline for advice and support.  They were great and so helpful in just making me feel more safe and secure.  I scoured all the leaflets they provided and took the advice on board.

I was pointed in the direction of my local heart support group and soon joined the committee, using my project management skills to help the group start up a gym.

I  joined in local fundraising efforts by collecting at supermarkets and in the city centre.  I also manned a BHF stand at our local Women’s Day to share the message that heart disease affects women as well as men.

I was even lucky enough to be invited to the BHF labs in Manchester to see first hand the research that takes place.

I am most grateful however for the funding that The BHF has provided into SCAD research.  The BHF is first and foremost a research charity and a SCAD patient group campaigned to get funding for research.

The research project has been running in Leicester for over a year now and I’ve been lucky to be chosen as one of the participants.  The research involves a review of family medical history, plus a number of tests. including an MRI, ultrasound and skin biopsy.

Although I was slightly nervous of what else the study might find (ignorance is bliss after all), the sensible part of me wanted to chat to an expert about the condition to better understand the risks.  I also wanted to know the risks facing my sister and nieces as research so far shows a genetic link.

The study day was in fact extremely helpful and considerably eased my anxiety once I was able to understand some of my ongoing symptoms such as an irregular heartbeat.

I’ve never taken part in a study before, but I’m so glad I did as we really need to understand why SCAD happens.

One of my greatest fears is that I will have another occurrence.  Many people have multiple SCADs and there is currently no known way to predict or prevent them.  As I write this blog post I’m waiting on results from an MRI and CT scan of my head as there is a chance that I may have experienced another dissection, but this time affecting arteries supplying  blood to my brain.  Wish me luck with this one!

SCAD now has its own charity in the UK, BeatSCAD which is now fundraising in its own right.

From wearing red in February, to baking scones, there are lots of ways to support the BHF and I hope I can continue to do so.

I’m hopeful for the future and maybe together we can find some answers!

<a href="http://candyflossdreams.net&quot; rel="nofollow" title="Candyfloss & Dreams"Dream and Sparkle Linky 

 

 

 

beatSCAD: An Update Five Years Still Alive and Kicking!

DSCN0594

 

Hello fellow Scadsters!

A couple of weeks ago, Becks Breslin, a pioneer of the UK beatSCAD charity, asked me to provide an update on what life is like five years post SCAD.

The beatSCAD website has lots of useful information for those newly diagnosed with this scary and bewildering condition.  I really wish it had been around five years ago when every cough, sneeze, ache or pain threw me into panic mode thinking I would have another dissection.

Anyway, still alive and kicking, this is the update I provided for the website:

I’m now over five years post SCAD, just coming up to 55 and the happiest I have ever been in my life. So what’s changed?
    1. I got healthy through eating well and exercising moderately (gardening, yoga, walking, badminton)
    2. I chucked my stressful job and now write a 50 plus lifestyle blog over at https://flowerpowerlife.wordpress.com/
    3. I re-joined my choir (Chester Ladies) and will become chairman next month.  We are a registered charity and I will be doing lots of public speaking (as well as singing of course!).
    4. My strategy for the future is ‘always have the next holiday booked’ so you have to be there for it!
    5. I travel extensively, although on a budget.  The picture is of me on the Brooklyn Bridge during a recent girls only trip to NYC!
    6. I don’t have much cash any more, but I spend on experiences, not things, which are no longer important.
    7. I’ve embraced charity shops!
    8. I am no longer scared of lifts (the worst already happened and I survived)
    9. I no longer get panic attacks (ditto)
    10. I still get premature atrial contractions, days when I’m exhausted, and days when my heart seems to play up all day, but I have faith that it will pass, so I don’t dwell on it.  I take my medication and hope for the best.
So what does the future hold?  Well, I’m thinking I may reach menopause this year (it’s now seven months since my last period) with the hope that my PACS will go away, or at least improve.  I’m waiting for my referral to Dr Adlam to come through so that I can perhaps ditch some of this medication.  I want to travel more, blog more, experience more, do more and just have fun.  I’m saying ‘yes’ to everything I can!

 

 

Scones For SCAD Saturday 27 Feb 2016

To celebrate February’s National Heart Month and Rare Disease Day (29 February), Beat SCAD has launched a fundraising event – Scones for SCAD! I will be hosting a coffee morning at my home on Saturday 27 Feb for friends and family, as will many fellow SCADs survivors!
DSCF2145
Beat SCAD launched in 2015 and so far, the group involved in setting it up, along with other SCAD survivors have provided an enormous amount of support to people who have just suffered a SCAD and are bewildered and asking ‘why me’.  The SCAD support group is fantastic and the charity is working towards funding for more research into why SCAD happens and how it should be treated.
The first thing you do when this happens to you is search for answers, and believe me, I did, and found very little.  My GP had never heard of it, and the cardiologist I saw had seen only one other case in his career.
Until recently there was hardly anything known about the disease, but the team at Leicester are learning more all the time, with the help of some willing volunteers (like me) who are happy to be scanned, biopsied and measured!
There’s still a long way to go in raising awareness so that young women are not turned away from A&E because they are ‘too young’ to have a heart attack.  I was told it must be indigestion as I looked ‘too healthy’.
February is the first of hopefully many fundraising efforts – let’s beat SCAD!
This is a summary provided by Beat SCAD:
What is SCAD?

Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) is a rare heart condition that can’t be predicted or prevented. It affects people with few or none of the normal risk factors for heart disease.

o SCAD can be fatal, cause heart failure, cardiac arrest, require heart bypass surgery, stents or medical management.

o SCAD occurs when a tear or a bruise develops in one of the coronary arteries resulting in a blockage that prevents normal blood flow. This can result in a heart attack.

o SCAD affects mainly women. Around 30% of SCADs occur during or soon after pregnancy.

Menopause, extreme stress and exercise and connective tissue disorders have also been associated with SCAD but as yet we don’t know exactly what causes SCAD.

What is Beat SCAD?

Beat SCAD was established by SCAD survivors whose mission is to:

o raise awareness of Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) among cardiologists, GPs, emergency staff, cardiac rehab staff and more, as well as SCAD patients, their family and friends

o provide support for SCAD patients, family and friends

o raise funds for research into SCAD

 

A New Year Message Of Hope For Fellow SCAD Survivors

DSCN0211It’s been almost five years since my SCAD and I wanted to let you guys know that things can, and do, significantly improve with the passage of time.  If you had your SCAD in 2015 then you may not believe me, as the first year is the hardest.  2011 for me was a nightmare of A&E visits, hospital appointments, anxiety and a feeling that life as I knew it was over.  Well, it was actually, but it turns out that it was no bad thing, as I’ve never been happier than I am right now.

The very best news in the last few months is that my wanderlust has returned.  I really thought my globetrotting days were over, but just recently we’ve been looking at holidays in Costa Rica, and maybe even Australia and New Zealand is no longer out of the question.  If you’d have told me this on my first post SCAD flight to Mallorca when I sat shaking in the departure lounge convinced that flying would stop my heart, then I would never have believed you.  Well, since then, we’ve travelled extensively, but mostly in Europe.

So, the big trip for 2016 is a girls only trip to New York (shopping yay!!) with my best friend Linda.  Following this, who knows where the new year will take me?

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2016.

 

 

SCAD Study: My Day At Glenfield

DSCF2293

As many of you know, I’m taking part in a study into SCAD (spontaneous coronary artery dissection), which aims to better understand what causes this rare type of heart disease and what can be done to prevent it.  It mainly occurs in women, and the main flashpoints are post childbirth or in perimenopause.

So today, I saw the lovely Dr Abi at Glenfield in Leicester for a battery of tests.  For those SCADsters who are due to take part soon, I thought I’d share my experience, which I have to say, was extremely positive.

  1. Fasting for five hours prior to the appointment
  2. Meet with Dr Abi and brief discussion
  3. Measurements/BP
  4. Urine sample
  5. Ultrasound on neck to look at arteries
  6. Cuff test – using a band to temporarily interrupt blood supply to lower arm and use ultrasound to check how the body responds once blood supply is resumed.

All of this was completely painless, maybe number 6 was a bit uncomfortable, but nothing more.

Teabreak/breakfast

  1. Ultrasound on neck to look at flexibility of arteries
  2. General flexibility test
  3. Medical history/family history/medication review

Break

  1. Bloods
  2. MRI scan – this was the part I was dreading, but with a little help from a sedative, it was absolutely fine, taking just over an hour.  For Miss Claustrophobia, this is was major obstacle overcome!
  3. Skin biopsy taken from my arm – painless, just a bit of gentle tugging when the stitches went it.

Break

Finally a long chat to discuss findings and MRI.  This was really interesting and encouraging and I feel so much better about SCAD now I’ve seen Dr Abi who really does understand the condition.  The things I’ve experienced since the heart attack are all common with SCAD and with a few tweaks to my medication I’m looking forward to fewer premature atrial contractions (which Abi assures me are not something to worry myself senseless about) and more importantly, confidence that I can have a normal life and that post menopause, when all this hormonal stuff has gone away, my heart will settle.  My ejection fraction is 68% and there is no evidence of heart muscle damage, so all good!

If anyone want to talk to me about Glenfield, you can contact me via the SCAD facebook group.