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?
- I got healthy through eating well and exercising moderately (gardening, yoga, walking, badminton)
- I chucked my stressful job and now write a 50 plus lifestyle blog over at https://flowerpowerlife.wordpress.com/
- 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!).
- My strategy for the future is ‘always have the next holiday booked’ so you have to be there for it!
- I travel extensively, although on a budget. The picture is of me on the Brooklyn Bridge during a recent girls only trip to NYC!
- I don’t have much cash any more, but I spend on experiences, not things, which are no longer important.
- I’ve embraced charity shops!
- I am no longer scared of lifts (the worst already happened and I survived)
- I no longer get panic attacks (ditto)
- 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!
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.
- 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.
Well I’m a week in and I’ve lost four pounds…not a bad result considering I gave into porridge cravings. I’m happy with this, given that losing just one pound is normally an uphill struggle for me.
The things I’m enjoying are the veggies. I’ve eaten loads this week of all different types and colours. Cooking from scratch has been no problem as I’ve been doing this for a few years now.
I’ve found it really hard not to eat carbs – in fact, as you know I’ve given in and just done it anyway. But, at least oats are complex carbs which keep your blood sugar stable.
Funnily enough I’ve not missed bread as I thought I would, although I did look longingly at Steve eating thickly buttered toast yesterday. He’s lost weight too!
The one issue I’ve experienced is tiredness. I was dog tired yesterday despite going to bed really early all week to avoid the kitchen.
I’ve enjoyed the exercise classes although they were tough. Made my usual zumba class feel a lot easier!
Premature atrial contractions have been not too bad this week, although my heart had a bit of a grumble at me after class on Thursday, so need to be careful not to overdo it.
So onwards and upwards into week two. My motivation this week? Reducing my risk of type 2 diabetes, having better heart health and having loads more energy. Oh and fitting nicely into the dress I’m wearing to a wedding on Friday.
Last night I was one of the lucky people invited to the launch party for the new Chester branch of Holland & Barrett which has moved down the road to the spot that Waitrose occupied. It’s a huge store with so much choice that it’s hard to know where to start.
The store showcases the ever growing Free From range of foods which are fab for anyone with allergies or food intolerances. Luckily I don’t have this to contend with, but as readers of my blog will know, my number one focus is looking after my heart and trying to find ways of minimising my premature atrial contractions, so I’m researching foods that will keep my blood sugar stable throughout the day. The sugar free foods are of great interest as are the different types of grains on offer.
I was motivated and inspired to hear how important it is to H&B to extend their Free From offering because the people behind it really care.
I had a good wander round the shop and see that there are some really fun things to do, like make your own scrubs (right up my aromatherapy street!) and get fresh juices made to go. Everything is beautifully presented so it will be a joy to shop there.
It was great to meet some other bloggers and some of the Free From food suppliers. Always good to chat with some like minded people!
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.
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!!
It really is no big secret as to why I’m overweight. I eat. A lot. When I’m happy. When I’m sad. When I’m celebrating. When I’m commiserating. I know it’s destructive behaviour and that I should be at least a stone lighter, but somehow, I’m stuck in this same old pattern. Four years ago after the shock of having a SCAD heart attack, I lost a stone in a matter of weeks. I ate no chocolate, no cake, no crisps. In short, I was motivated with a capital M. So why can’t I apply that same self discipline now? I know what to do, I cook from scratch, I have plenty of time, I work out regularly and I’m really organised.
The crux of it is, I’m an emotional eater. I often feel an emptiness which I interpret as hunger. Today for example, my heart is playing up (I have an irregular beat since my SCAD with runs of premature atrial contractions.) I feel like it is turning over in my chest and I’m not happy about it!! So what do I do? I eat a biscuit. As if that is going to make the slightest bit of difference (well not in the right direction at any rate). I know it’s wrong, but I still go right ahead and do it anyway.
On Saturday, I was standing in the queue in John Lewis, thinking ‘green tea’ and when I got to the counter I said ‘decaff cappuccino’ and helped myself to a bar of Green & Blacks white chocolate while I was at it. My heart said ‘you deserve a treat’ then minutes later, after I’d eaten it, my mind said ‘ you’re a failure!’
Part of me thinks ‘I may not live that long, let’s enjoy life and eat cake’. The other part of me says ‘I’m really healthy, I won’t let this heart problem get me down’. Today the cake lover is winning. Maybe tomorrow the healthy me will come out to play again. I hope so!!