Tag Archives: hypertension

The Infinite Monkey Theorem

28 Mar

An infinite amount of monkeys, locked in a room with an infinite amount of typewriters. Eventually, one monkey will accidentally bang out the complete works of Shakespeare ( the rest will produce documents as relevant as the USDA “My Plate” nutrition guidelines). I can relate to that one monkey…

Earlier this week, I received a completely random email, from a completely random person, that stumbled across my blog and rather enjoyed it. My first instinct was to question this individual’s sanity but upon further review of this email they seemed to be genuinely inspired by what I had to say. It is quite remarkable to me that anything that I write could have an impact on another human being, as I often struggle with just writing things that can actually be read and understood by people that speak some form of the english language. I can only chalk this up to the Infinite Monkey Theorem. To prove my point, I will now type the remainder of this post with my forehead. Enjoy.

 I had an EKG done and the results were…less than encouraging. My resting heart heart was 46 beats per minute, way outside the normal 60-80 that is expected. I had a definitive “third sound”, a noise other than the “BA-DUM” heart beat sound. I was told this could be a heart murmur. Even the electrical impulses coursing through my heart were abnormal. The EKG revealed a Right Bundle Branch Block meaning that electrical signals where not traveling along the path along the right side of my heart. This by itself is not an issue but could be an indicator of disease. I would have to wait for an echo cardigram (a sonogram of the heart) before any diagnosis could be made.

I returned home to stew over my fate. I felt fine. BETTER than fine! I felt like I was in the best shape of my life! Vigorous and capable of remarkable physical feats. Certainly the doctor was mistaken.

Several weeks later I showed up for my echo cardiogram. The results were….less than encouraging.

The echo cardiogram revealed that my heart was slightly enlarged and the walls were thicker than “normal”. This looked eerily similar to the disease my Father was diagnosed with, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. The cardiologist was also concerned about the velocity at which my heart pumped blood. Almost as though it was beating “to hard”. She asked if I was a runner. I despise running. I answered honestly, sort of.” I lift weights a couple days a week and run a 10k once a week”. A lie. I run a 10k maybe once a month. I didn’t want to hear, “you need more cardio”, so…. I lied. She seemed satisfied with my answer. I was scheduled for a “stress echo”. They wanted to see how my heart would do under load. A couple weeks later I arrived at the hospital wearing Vibrams and gym shorts.

The test would be done on a treadmill. I hate treadmills.

It goes a little something like this: Several nurses come in and shave all the dignity off of your chest (it took me 28 years to grow that hair) then hook up all kinds of fancy gadgetry and start you walking on the treadmill with a slight incline. Your heart rate and other vitals are monitored as they slowly increase both the speed and the incline of the treadmill. The idea is to achieve your maximum heart rate (220 – your age, mine is 192), at which time they will quickly pull you off the treadmill and perform an echo cardiogram (heart sonogram). Periodically the ask your perceived exertion level to make sure your not gonna croak mid-test (my words, not theirs…).

I ask how long the test will take. The nurse informed me that most people make about 7-8 minutes. The test times out after 15 minutes and she had only seen one person make it the entire 15 minutes. He was a 45 year old marathon runner. I hate running. I decided at that moment that on this day, she would see a 28 year old, bacon eating, cross trainer make it as well. Why? Because I’m stubborn as hell and I like a challenge (blame it on my Ackerman DNA). Only, as the test wore on, I realized it was not very challenging at all!

After 12 minutes, the treadmill was full tilt. Completely maxed out on speed and incline. I was trying to start a conversation with the nurse partly to fight off the hampster wheelesque boredom induced by the treadmill and partly to prove to her that I was unfazed by this “test”. As I ran my heart rate was steady at 142 beats per minute. After the complete 15 minutes I was pulled from the treadmill and the echo cardiogram was performed. 152 beats per minute was all the treadmill could muster, a far cry from the 192 they were looking for. Beast mode confirmed. I would have to wait two weeks for the doctor to analyze the results of this test.

The official diagnosis? “Athletic Heart Syndrome”. Not a disease at all but a physiological changing of the “normal” heart to cope with the increased demand of repeated athletic activity. A big, muscular heart capable of moving a large volume of blood when asked. During rest the heart rate drops dramatically due to increased efficiency. The “third sound” was no heart murmur but caused by a higher volume of blood flowing through the heart chamber. The Right Bundle Branch Block was merely a harmless rewiring of the heart found in nearly half of people with Athletic Heart Syndrome.The results were surprising to my cardiologist. Normally this diagnosis is found only in “highly trained individuals and distance runners”. Not 28 year old, bacon loving, cross trainers that might run 10k every 60 days… The relief I felt was unimaginable. Everything that seemed to indicate disease, dysfunction, or abnormality, was actually a physical change for the better. My heart was better than “normal”. If it sounds like I have a chip on my shoulder, it’s because I do. I was made to believe that something was wrong with me when in fact, there was no problem at all. Why did this happen?

When I reflect on this ordeal I can’t help but wonder what guidelines are used to determine a “normal” or “healthy” human heart. It seems that “normal” means small. Weak. Inefficient. Untrained. It seems the “normal” human heart is the “sedentary” human heart. A heart built from too much ass time, a life lived in climate control, a life where you put the master bedroom on the ground floor so you dont have to climb the stairs twice a day. I would argue that the heart beating in the chest of our ancient ancestors was not “normal” at all. Much like that of this 28 year old, bacon inspired, cross trainer.

 

 

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If this is the Future, then Where’s my Damn Hovercraft!?! (and other lies about blood pressure…)

26 Jul

I’m not here to pick a fight with your general health practitioner. This is not Corey vs. Your Doctor, although it may seem as such sometimes…. BUT! When I see a load of bullcrap I cannot help myself but to call it as such and it just so happens that the modern medical establishments seems to be full of it! It really gets my blood pressure up which in turn, would make my doctor want to medicate me. And THAT, is what this is all about.

1 in 3 U.S. adults have high blood pressure (hypertension). 75% of these people are controlling their hypertension with medication costing around 93,5 billion dollars per year. An additional 1 in 3 Americans are considered pre-hypertensive, meaning that they have higher than normal blood pressure and are at an increased risk of developing hypertension later in life. What is normal? The AHA says that 115/75 mmHG is ideal. 12o-139/ 80-89 puts you into the pre-hypertensive category and anything 140/90 and up tags you as hypertensive. Good luck qualifying for a half million dollars of life insurance for only $9.99/ month!

“Yeah, that’s great and all, but what the heck do all those numbers mean?”

Great question, glad you asked. Well, here is the West Virginia Community College Blood Pressure 101 explanation:

The top number of the blood pressure equation is your systolic pressure. This is the amount of pressure that blood exacts on the vessels when your heart pumps. Between beats your blood pressure drops. This pressure is represented by the bottom number and is called diastolic pressure. Factors that effect blood pressure include: emotional state, alcohol and caffeine consumption, ambient temperature, having to pee ( I’m not making this stuff up! Systolic blood pressure can increase up to 15mmHG when you have a full bladder), smoking, not getting good sleep, nutrition, attractive members of the opposite ( or same?…) gender, being overweight, your activity level… So, pretty much anything and everything. Your blood pressure fluctuates wildly throughout the day depending on these factors and others.

Awesome! Class dismissed. Graduation is Thursday night at the Waffle House.

“Wow, with that much variability, how can they truly be sure if someone has high blood pressure or not?”

Dude, its like you just read my mind. It is not out of the realm of possibilities for someone who is young and healthy with a blood pressure of 115/75 to walk into a doctor’s office, lightly caffeinated and having to pee, perhaps with a little anxiety over the dude hacking up a lung in the waiting room, or maybe needles, or nurses and doctors in general, and get a blood pressure reading of 140/90. Bam! Hypertension. “Gee, son. Your blood pressure looks a little high” says the Doc,  planting the seed of concern and creating anxiety for our healthy youngster the next time a blood pressure reading is taken. Guess what? High again.

Hopefully our fine medical community would exhaust all other options before placing this person on a prescription drug with a host of nasty side effects for the rest of his/her life. I once heard a saying, “Hope in one hand and crap in the other. Let me know which one fills up the fastest” or something slightly more poetic….

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!!! (spoken in my best 3am infomercial voice)

Doctors, nurses and the AHA will  tell you that for every 20 point increase in systolic pressure, your risk of dying from a cardiac event doubles. Wow! That is amazing! Good thing we’ve got all of these pharmaceutical companies around to save us! This “information” is drawn from the extensive research done in the Framingham study. The same Framingham study that I used to blow up the establishments unwarranted vilification of our good friend bacon. Here is the data in a nice, neat little graph.

Well, that sure looks convincing. I guess I should go hide in the closet and give up on the pro-pork belly crusade. Oh wait, this is a blog about calling *cough* bullshit* cough* cough* on the medical establishment.  Okay, ready? Check out this graph. It is the raw data that was used to create the previous. Only this time without “computer smoothing” (a.k.a. distorting the real data).

“Gee whiz. That looks a lot different.”

Yes it does. Remember the whole “every 20 point increase in systolic pressure doubles your risk of dying from a cardiac event”. Complete and utter crap. Someone with a systolic pressure of 120 has virtual the same risk as someone at 155. In fact everything from 100-160 looks fairly benign. But… pretty benign doesn’t sell pills very well, does it? I’ll leave you with a quote from Thomas Edison:

“The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.”