Excitedly, I opened the padded manila envelope that had come in the mail. Wanting to get a more accurate pulse rate when participating in my aerobic classes, I had splurged and purchased a heart rate monitor. It was 2002, and little did I know how this would impact me and my heart health over the years.
I sat at my desk in my office and read the directions and followed them precisely. Nobody I knew owned one yet, and I had only viewed them online and in magazines… remember it was 2002. I attached the belt portion snuggly around my chest below my breast as directed. I then placed the watch on my left wrist. With my right index finger, I hit the button to get a reading.
I could not believe what I saw. 123 bpm (beats per minute.) How could this be? I was sitting down in my chair basically doing nothing. I waited a few minutes and hit the button to get another reading. 123 bpm again. I was exerting no energy…how could this be? I read the instructions again to make sure I had not skipped a vital piece of information. Once satisfied I had followed the directions correctly, I hit the button to get another reading of my pulse. 127 bpm. Not good.
My immediate thought was I had received a faulty piece of equipment. It was too late to call the company and ask for a replacement, so I resolved to do that after work the next day. Then I decided to test it on my son and husband just to confirm that it was broken when I received it.
I went through the procedure with my son, CJ. His pulse was about 70 bpm, which was just right for his age group. I then asked my husband to let me take his pulse with my new monitor. His was about 68 bpm. A bit shaken because I now knew that there was nothing wrong with the monitor, but there was definitely something wrong with me, I went back to my desk. I did some deep breathing exercises, cleared my head of all thoughts. When I felt calm and at peace, I took my pulse again. It was 127 bpm. I monitored myself for the next 3 hours while trying not to freak out.
I was an area account manager for a major pharmaceutical company and cardiology was one of the areas I specialized in. What I was seeing caused me great concern and I went through all my files and I started reviewing all the materials I had that would shed any light on what was happening with my heart. I was relatively healthy, not a smoker, not a heavy drinker and my family had no family history of heart disease. How could I be afflicted with this racing heart which is known as tachycardia?
As fate would have it, the next morning, I would be picking up a highly respected cardiologist arriving from Washington State at the San Jose Airport and drive him to one of my teaching hospitals where he was the guest speaker for Grand Rounds. During the 1 1/2- hour ride to Natividad Hospital in Salinas, I casually asked him how concerned I should be regarding the pulse rates my heart was producing. The look on his face told me all I needed to know as he instructed me to address my health issue immediately. My life could depend on it.
For years I was diagnosed as having an irregular heartbeat. Each time I would question what specifically caused my heart to beat so fast, my doctors would draw a complete blank. I wanted to understand how, seemingly out of the blue I had an unexplainable problem with my heart. I personally worried that it was beating so fast that one day, prematurely it would just stop. The only remedy available to me was to find the right combination of known medications to lower my heart rate.
I remember one heartfelt conversation I had with my cardiologist. He asked me what was going on with my life since he last time he had seen me. I spent the next 10 minutes sharing my truth. When I finished talking, he looked at me, with concern in his eyes and said, “You are under an unbelievable amount of stress.” He was right.
My demanding job was a piece of cake for me, I loved it. Being a mom and all that it entailed, I loved and still love it. Trying to make a marriage work that had not been working for years was breaking my heart. I did not know how to fix that situation and having run out of options it had turned to a high level of stress that had been affecting my health for years.
An overabundance of stress can zap life out of an individual. It took years for me to truly understand, accept and address what was causing the stress that had become the norm in my life. I was unhappy, I was sad, I was scared, I felt alone, yet I was still motivated and believed to a fault that I could make the important things in my life work. Eventually, I had to make life changing moves to save my heart which I know saved my life.
Stress is called the silent killer. It takes a toll on your body, your emotional state and if it is left unchecked it can lead to many health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and increase susceptibility to strokes, cancer and more.
I was lucky. After years of being diagnosed with an irregular heart rate, I am now heart healthy. I never had a heart problem, I had a stress problem which effected my heart which now beats between 68-74 bmp resting. I had to make changes in my personal life that effected the quality of my life and rid myself of unnecessary stress, so I could again, be happy in life.
Please, don’t let stress overwhelm and effect your precious life.
Regina Gale is a Speaker, Singer, Poet and Writer. The author of “Sometimes He Buys Me Grapes” a touching and candid perspective of life from a seasoned woman’s heart. www.reginagale.com.