Our Opinion: Heed subtle warning signs from the heart

Last week — on the second day of American Heart Month — I shoveled snow.

I already can hear others responding with a collective: “Big deal!”

For me, however, it was a big deal — another benefit of the marvels of modern medicine that allow me to live a normal life.

In the winter of 2004-05, doctors’ orders prohibited me from shoveling snow — or, for that matter, lifting anything heavier than a quart of milk.

At the time, I was recovering from triple-bypass surgery.

I share this experience during the observance of Heart Month as a reminder that the warning signs of heart disease may be very subtle.

In my case, I experienced mild chest pains during times of routine physical exertion, such as raking autumn leaves. When I rested, the pains subsided.

A more stern warning occurred while driving, when I experienced a more intense pain of longer duration.

I related the episode to my primary care physician, who referred me to a cardiologist.

The result of an ensuing stress test was “abnormal,” and a cardiac catherization was scheduled. The procedure led to immediate surgery to replace blood vessels so severely clogged they could have led to a major, perhaps fatal, heart attack.

I am fortunate.

My diagnosis was timely and accurate. The progression of medical tests, surgery and rehabilitation, all done locally, were professional and without complications.

To celebrate American Heart Month, the American Heart Association will host the annual Heart Ball on Saturday at Capitol Plaza Hotel. Information may be obtained by calling 230-6160.

The Heart Star this year is Alex Cadice, a 22-year-old college student who has been diagnosed with a genetic heart condition.

Although he is an active young man, he must respect limits. And no cure exists for his condition — yet.

Not too many years ago, no cure existed for my condition, either.

Among its many initiatives, the American Heart Association is working to help patients with heart disease live normal lives.

And, if necessary, shovel snow.

RFM

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