Heart Stopping Experience Can Soon Become Fatal
It was another stressful day when I checked my blood pressure on my home blood pressure monitor. That morning the numbers ran 170/108. The systolic number (the top) was elevated once again and the extremely high diastolic number (bottom) explained the screeching noise reverberating in my ears.
What Happens When a Heart Goes Awry?
Normal blood pressure ranges from about 119/ 79 but can vary about 20 points in either direction. It’s important to maintain a normal blood pressure since elevated blood pressure indicates that the force of the blood pumping against the heart’s artery walls is too strong. Over time, this leads to heart disease, damaged arteries, damaged kidneys or possible strokes.
I’d been trying to reduce my high BP numbers for months and even with trying different medications, nothing seemed to help.
As the day went by, I decided to forget about my blood pressure and take my daily three-mile walk. The day was green and fragrant with the aroma of pink rhododendrons and new-mowed grass, and I breathed in the freshness of a spring day as I completed my walk.
Suddenly as I came home, I couldn’t catch my breath. I panted and struggled to regain an even breathing pattern, but it kept coming in ragged bursts. My pulse was racing and I looked at my husband and said, “Something’s wrong.”
Minutes later, my head felt lighter than air, my arms tingled, and dizziness almost made me fall.
My husband rushed me to the emergency room where they slapped oxygen on me, hooked me up to an electrocardiogram EKG machine and gave me nitroglycerin to put under my tongue.
“You look green,” said my worried husband. That’s about how I felt. The EKG monitored the flip-flops my heart was doing each time I couldn’t catch my breath.
“Your heart’s not happy,” said the EKG technician. No kidding, I thought.
After the hospital admitted me, the search was on for the cause of my problem. Was it a heart attack? Was it too much or too little medication? Was it too much stress? Was I a smoker?
The Lifesaving Diagnostic Machines
Whatever the cause, it would be discovered by the new state of the art medical equipment that can now analyze and diagnose every inner working of the human heart.
The heart, which is the large muscle that pumps blood throughout the body, is made up of four chambers. The two upper chambers are called the atria–the two lower ones are the ventricles.
This most miraculous muscle uses natural electricity to regulate its rhythmic beating, and this electrical activity can be traced by the EKG machine. The machine, which is wired up to the patient by electrodes, then translates the heart’s activity into line tracings that look like peaks and valleys.This machine can indicate whether or not the heart is beating in a normal rhythm.
Another amazing diagnostic tool is the huge-ring shaped CAT machine. It looks likes a giant doughnut and as the patient lies flat on a bench, he or she slowly slides into the hole. Here, an x-ray tube rotates around the body and takes three dimensional pictures of the heart or other parts of the body. A technician sits at a computer screen then anaylzes the pictures, which are in digital format.
One drawback of both these tests, however, is that they only analyze the heart at rest. What happens to the heart when it’s exercising? Usher in the cardiac stress test.
During this test, the patient is hooked up to an EKG machine and then steps onto a treadmill or stationary bike.The cardiologist who is monitoring the test tries to get the patient to a certain level of activity as she walks the treadmill, which quickly speeds up. In my case, I needed to get to a pulse rate of 132. The heart activity is then measured by the EKG.
Heart activity can also be measured and examined by a heart ultrasound or echocardiogram. During this test, a technician slides what looks like a small microphone and is called a transducer over the patient’s chest, which has first been rubbed with gel. The machine’s sound waves bounce off the heart and produce sounds and images of the heart’s structural components.
The tests completed on me all showed normal heart activity, which was a great relief. It’s also a relief to know that this amazing organ of ours can be so well measured, so well analyzed and so well treated.
- References: Heart Site–accessed 5/17/11
- WebbMd.: High Blood Pressure (hypertension)–accessed 5/17/11
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.