beatSCAD: An Update Five Years Still Alive and Kicking!

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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!

 

 

Premature Atrial Contractions (Palpitations): What I’ve learned

A year go, on my fledging blog, I wrote about palpitations and what I did to manage them.  I notice that in the SCAD user group (spontaneous coronary artery dissection) lots of people are asking about how to cope so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned in the last twelve months.

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  • My SCAD is now four years behind me, so every day that goes by, I feel safer.   I know that PACS come and go and I don’t pay them the same attention.  They are my new normal and to some extent, I’ve accepted this.
  • I’ve read a lot about palpitations and it seems that they are very common and according to my GP and specialist, nothing to worry about.  Lots of people without heart problems have them, it’s just that us SCADsters are hyper aware of anything to do with our heart.
  • Occasionally I do panic a bit.  When this happens, I aim to distract myself.  Sadly at bedtime, this is hard to do, as your thoughts are magnified and you can over focus on your heartbeat.  I have a pile of magazines by my bed to flick through – easier than trying to concentrate on my book.
  • I eat to keep my blood sugar stable, as dips seem to set them off – especially getting hungry and missing a meal.  This means avoiding simple carbs: white bread, cakes, pastries, alcohol, chocolate, pasta which cause a sharp rise in blood sugar followed by a crash.  I’m no saint and love all these things, but keep them for occasions, and not for every day.
  • I love chocolate, so have a strip of 85% cocoa Green & Blacks right after my evening meal so there is protein in my stomach too.
  • I aim to have protein, complex carbs and good fats at every meal.
  • Planning my menus each week avoids relying on a quick fix carb heavy meal.
  • I exercise to raise my heart beat – Zumba and regular walking for a few miles at a time.  I couldn’t maintain the running because it aggravated the PACS.
  • I practice Yoga to help with relaxation.
  • I have a set bedtime relaxation routine which includes reading for an hour before sleep.
  • I take comfort in knowing that palpitations are common at menopause, so now I’m almost 54, it can’t be forever!
  • Sally Bee is my role model – she’s a SCADster and looks fabulously healthy on ITV’s Lorraine.
  • Finally, I’m not letting it rule my life.  In the last year I’ve flown long haul, had food poisoning (was terrified that vomiting would kill me) and agreed to be chairman of a registered charity which will involve public speaking.

If you are getting palpitations for the first time, then of course check with your GP, but once you’ve been checked over and told you just have to get on with it, then maybe the above will help.

Two Steps Forward and Three Steps Back: Running Progress

I wrote a few weeks ago about my fledging attempts to get back on the road and my desire to run down the country lanes again.

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Well, all was going nicely until this week.  I’d been running three times a week on the treadmill and thinking I could get outside at the end of this month.

My heart, however, has other plans!  This week it’s been a pain in the neck with PACS (premature atrial contractions) and funny sensations which leave me feeling very mortal.  So much so that I haven’t run now since last Monday and I’m now sitting here contemplating should I go to the gym today or am I dicing with death?

In reality, I know I’m unlikely to just drop dead, but the fear is still with me.  I suspect I’m in a bit of a hormonal storm this week which is the likely cause but I’m hugely frustrated!

OK rant over.  I think I just have to write off this week and start again next week with a reduced schedule then get back on track.  Maybe I can make it down the lanes for Easter instead.  I should be happy I’ve come this far!!

 

 

 

Coping With Palpitations

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I’ve been bothered a lot lately by palpitations, made worse by attempting to increase my Levothyroxine dose to manage my underactive thyroid.

I experience PACS, or premature atrial contractions, every day.  They feel like a flutter in the chest and almost as if my heart is flipping about.  I’m assured that they are not dangerous but any disturbance to my heart rhythm unnerves me because of my SCAD heart attack history. They sure as hell feel dangerous that’s all I can say!

Since the change in my medication (which my GP has now reduced to its former level) the palpitations are more frequent and last longer which makes me not a very happy bunny!

I’m taking a beta blocker which helps to regulate the heartbeat, but this makes me slow and tired, which, combined with not taking enough thyroxine, leads to weight gain and sleeping in the afternoon!  It’s not good.

There are things I can do as follows – with my grumpy responses attached!

1. Avoid alcohol.  I miss having a few drinks on a night out.  I can still drink in moderation and most of the time it doesn’t bother me, but just occasionally I’d like to be able to let my hair down.

2. Avoid caffeine. I used to avoid it altogether, but now have a cheeky coffee every now and again.  Espressos are gone for me forever I fear and I miss them!

3. Avoid unnecessary stress, so for example, don’t watch horror films, engage in high risk sports or get involved in heated debates. I can abide by this rule mostly but Brexit has tipped me over the edge on heated debates!

4. If I do get a bad run of PACS, do breathing exercises, saying ‘calm and relaxed’ on the out breath. Easy if I’m at home.  Impossible if I am singing in a concert or on an aeroplane.

5. Practise yoga: This ticks the box for me.  No grumpy response, but I am frustrated that I am advised not to do plank or put weight on my chest because of potential dissection.

6. Try to keep to a regular sleep pattern, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day. Fine unless you are a frequent traveller or have bought A Game Of Thrones box set!

7. Take regular exercise.  Yes but I miss running.

8. Divert my attention.  PACS are most noticeable when relaxed, so I keep my mind occupied as much as possible: blogging works for this!  So does being grumpy, buying shoes and napping in the afternoon.

9. Gardening.  Fantastic except I’m not allowed to carry pots, dig, or pull up weeds any more!

10. Avoid chocolate: bugger that!