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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Explanations of Benign PVC's from a Heart Doctor

I have great appreciation for doctors who post their explanations online for free, just to help out members of the general public like me.

In this post, I will be directing you, dear reader, to a wonderful post from Dr. John M, a cardiologist, for his comforting post on PVC's.

Thank you, Doctor!

Benign PVCs: A heart rhythm doctor's approach......

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Our Cardiologist's "180"

Yesterday was a very discouraging day.  It was my dh's one year annual review with his main cardiologist.  DH was happy to go this appointment knowing that he had lost 48 net pounds over the past 13 months, and knowing he had lowered his total cholesterol 60 points and raised his HDL 10 points, not to mention also that he got his blood pressure under control and had been taken off of his blood pressure medications.

I sat in the office in a amazement as I watched the doctor "ream" out my husband for not getting his HDL up to 50.  And who in the past year has even told him how to accomplish that?  NO one!

There was absolutely no acknowledgement that he had a total cholesterol of 138, which we now know to be a level which renders the patient heart attack proof.  There was no acknowledgement that he was three sizes smaller, and had been able to been taken off of his blood pressure medications.

He was told he was a man of no self-control, a glutton, and that if he didn't change his ways he would be a cardiac cripple by the time he was 60.

Change his ways!!!!?????

What more could he change?  He has given up all sweeteners, sugar, agave, honey, sucralose, nutrasweet, saccharine, syrup, jam and jellies, any form you can name of an derivative of any sweetener, except a small amount of stevia.  He has given up all oils, even whole food vegetable oils, including avocados.  He has given up breads, cakes, pancakes, muffins, tortillas, refined pastas, etc. He has given up alllll meat and fish. This is a man who has watched his five children at home celebrate their birthdays in front of him as he passed up the birthday cake.  He has not had one piece of cake in over a year; not one cookie, not one bowl of ice cream, not one piece of pie.  Could the doctor say the same?

On top of all of the sacrifices he has made to give up the foods he loves, the doctor wanted him to give up calories too; 200 more a day. and his before bedtime snack; a bowl of oatmeal.

Is there no joy in living anymore?  At what point does it not become worth it anymore.  If I were him, I would be close to that point right now.

After the appointment my husband felt like a kicked puppy.  He temporarily lost his desire to comply to anything.  He feels his ability to choose to do anything as he pleases in his life has been taken away from him.

Unlike no other patient, he chose changes in lifestyle to manage his disease not medication, and he is meeting with success.  Prior to this success his doctor seemed supportive of the lifestyle change.  He acted like he was interested in the research, that he was also experimenting with it himself, but has something changed this past year?

Last year he said to me, the doc, that is, "I believe that the low-fat plant based diet works, but I can't chain my patients to the basement and make them eat that way."

Now I'm wondering, was he really converted to it, did he really do the research? or what he just beginning to learn about it, experimenting with it and it became too hard.

 He had only dabbled a bit in Ornish's research.  Am I too much lower than he on the education totem pole, to be taken seriously in my recommendation to read the Esselstyn studies?   Has he been caught back up into pharmaceutical backed studies that all people would benefit from a low dose of statins for a lifetime?  Studies that were done on meat eaters, not whole foods plant based folks?

What happened to the discussions of mutual interest and excitement and understanding of solid studies that have gone on and have been increasingly embraced since Pritikin?  There was none of that to be had yesterday.  He would not hear of it.  He would not let my husband get in a word edgewise, nor myself, for that matter.

And yet, he too has gained weight since I saw him last.  Was he too busy to keep his vegan lifestyle going?  Had he fallen off the wagon?  Was he lashing out at my husband because of his own experience?  Or was he just recuperating from a weekend hangover, or a fight with his wife?

It feels like the doctor is trying to whittle dh down, belittle him and make him feel like he needs medication. I won't get into the possible connection between that and drug company perks.  It just seems like it.

We are stymied by our doctor's "change of heart" and striking lack of support.  We don't know where to turn next.

Friday, December 6, 2013

New Findings from the Cleveland Clinic on the Connection Between Red Meat and Heart Disease, plus other animal products but not as strong

I am posting an article below that I just read about the connection between heart disease and eating red meat as presented by a study done by the Cleveland Clinic, the same clinic where Dr. Esselstyn works.  It supports a theory that I have had for a long time that most diseases are caused by an inbalance in gut bacteria.

The article reports on studies that show that most red meat eaters produce a chemical in their gut called TMAO, which is produced by the gut flora in the intestines which feeds on carnitine in red meats, including both beef and pork.  The article also states that the studies show that other animal products also promoted this chemical production, but not to the degree of red meat.

The process occurs when TMAO allows cholesterol to enter into the arteries.  The amount of cholesterol ushered in by the TMAO into the arteries is as individual as fingerprints and the gut bacteria balance, I would suppose. Because of this, I think more research should follow for trends in digestive trouble, antibiotic use, and TMAO levels in meat eaters. I think it would do a lot of good to take deeper look into the role of gut bacteria to discover why some meat eaters seem to escape heart disease until their senior years while others,  like DH, succumb in their early years.

Having studied the effects of gut bacteria on health, because I am a celiac, and have studied the effects gut flora has on the management of celiac disease, I have come to the idea, myself, that many conditions result from having too many antibiotics that kill good bacteria and lead to an overgrowth of bad bacteria.  Here's why I say this.  I had antibiotics every two months the first 12 years of my life.  Two of my seven children also had extensive antibiotic therapy.  They are my two children that also have celiac disease.

My husband's heart disease certainly supports the theory that the ruining gut flora balance through antibiotic use creates an environment for carnitine to feed bactera which make TMAO, which allows cholesterol to effect the arteries.

 Ten years ago he was diagnosed through calcium scoring with a small spec of hardening of the arteries on his right coronary artery.  It was also at that time he was called to be an LDS bishop, a lay pastoral position in the LDS church, that resulted in many nights away from home and many hamburger meals out for five and 1/2 years.

I would get after him for this, but we both felt he was being moderate.  Afterall, he wasn't eating them every day like many people do.

Also, during this time he had been treated twice for strep, due to the fact that bishops go into many homes to bless the sick, and shake many hands on various days of the week.  He had had several courses of antibiotics as a teenager to treat secondary infections which allowed an overgrowth of yeast in his body which he later controlled by taking acidophilus and watching sugar consumption, thereby starving off the yeast, but he had also had a lot of antibiotics while bishop.

Am I saying that antibiotic use causes the growth of TMAO?  Not necessarily, but it would make an interesting study.  One reason I couldn't totally commit to the idea that antibiotics had anything to do with TMAO production is because I don't know whether good bacteria burps out TMAO and don't know whether it's the bad bacteria that does or both.

Also,  my dad also ended up with heart interventions, a quintuple bypass, but I don't recall him ever needing antibiotics, so I just don't know.  But, perhaps good bacteria would be protective, or perhaps the antibiotics in the meat causes an imbalance in the gut, thereby making more bacteria that are prone to burp out TMAO.  It might be helpful to discover if good bacteria is preventive.

Anway, back to DH, it was at that time as bishop that he gained 50 pounds, and he suffered from bowel issues, particularly loose stools, and bleeding hemorrhoids, and a resurfacing of yeast problems.

 He was also hospitalized for an abnormal EKG after having had a fainting spell while biking with the cub scouts around a local lake.  I watched him grow in weight (and I did too from eating baked goods for comfort that had a "little sugar and oil" in them).  I also watched him grow in fatigue as he served, literallly, with his whole heart.  I do believe because of this, God preserved and renewed his body through the growth of collateral circulation, but as he probably ate red beef about twice a week out, and probably once a week at home,  he was also subjecting himself to a higher amount of TMAO than he was years before.

On the other hand, I have pretty much kept on my vegetarian diet since 1996, but grew in size during that time because of the inflammation from the celiacs and comfort eating baked goods.  However, I still only ate about 1 serving of meat a week, except for this last year where I have been 100% low fat plant based.  I am now 72 pounds lighter, I might add.

Another study that would be interesting is how TMAO responds to estrogen, and could that be why most women that have established heart disease don't present with problems until they are at least 55.

The TMAO studies give me a lot of hope because.....

1.  I probably don't have heart disease because I don't really like red meat, and when I did eat it, it was probably 1/4 pound a week at the maximum, if at all for decades.

2. Maybe DH is going to be fine the rest of his life now because he is a 100% plant based vegan, and we know exactly what his arteries looked like going from December 3, 2012, which were good after the stents were placed.

3.  The one time a week my kids eat meat is probably not going to be enough to change the their gut into producing TMAO because the meat has to be eaten on frequent basis to created the flora environment for lending itself to artery damage, and they all individually, at least those still living at home only eat red meat probably once a week.

The eat meat sparingly idea that Dr. Hazel in the article presents supports LDS scripture D&C 89 where it says that meat is ordained for the use of man but must be used sparingly.  In other words, an occasional piece of meat for a person without heart disease is not going to ruin health.  However, for one with heart disease, it has been found that it can be deadly, as proven by the Esselstyn studies, also done at the Cleveland Clinic.

The TMAO studies lead me to some theories of my own....  Does TMAO destory nitric oxide which then allows the cholesterol to take root and harden in the arteries?  Do people,who have been subjected to many antibiotics, have a greater risk of heart disease?  And then I wonder, could heart disease be controlled with the measurement of TMAO in the blood and gut flora management through some sort of supplementation?

And then I think, well, Dr. Esselstyn has already found the key, no supplementation needed, just eat a low fat plant based diet if you want to be heart attack proof.  The studies have proven that vegans do not produce TMAO.  Let me say that again.  Vegans do not produce TMAO.  Now I have an explanation to give at the church potluck that makes more sense.

I can't wait to see what comes out with these new findings and theories coming from the Cleveland Clinic.  I feel like they have given me a leg up on helping my boys to prevent what happened to their dad from happening to them.

Here is a link to the article......

It makes me wonder, if DH and I had gone vegan and stayed vegan in our early 20's, or maybe had just cut out red meat, and ate the other animal products sparingly, like the recommended 4 oz. per week that Dr. Stanley Hazen has put himself on, could we have avoided DH's heart disease altogether, and could he still get away with eating turkey on Thanksgiving because the environment for TMAO production had not been created?

The studies show that the vegans who were fed one meal with steak did not have any TMAO in their bloodstreams after the animal product meal, and the theory is because they have not subjected their gut flora to the meat on a regular basis.  That the bacteria that "burps out" the TMAO has to be built up over time and that one meal is not enough to create environment.

Maybe that is why some studies show that those who have been on the Mediterranean diet don't get heart disease, and maybe that is why some who have established heart disease, like DH, still progress to potentially catastrophic heart events despite changing to the Mediterranean diet.

Maybe those who never were red meat eaters can stay healthy on the Mediterranean diet, but that moderated type of diet is ineffective for reversal in those who grew up as frequent red meat eater.  So in others words, maybe the Mediterranean diet is preventive for those with no disease but deadly for those with "velcro arteries" (that's what I call them to illustrate to my kids what they are like) caused by years of eating red meat.

Maybe that's why "moderation kills" when there is established heart disease as Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D. has observed from his studies.

I love the information in this study because it helps me to have peace of mind about my own health, as I continue to eat a 100% low fat plant based diet, and gives me guidelines that are manageable for the generations coming up behind us.  In the words of our pediatrician, "It's not a matter of if but when your boys will develop their dad's condition because of his family history.  I recommend the diet you have discovered for them, the low-fat plant based diet, but let them have fun once every few weeks for a day.  They will be fine."

We are really blessed to live in this day and age where we know so much more about heart health.  When my 2nd great-grandpa first learned he had heart disease, he was already leaned over his chair in agonizing pain and he died the next day.

These days we know the warning signs of heart disease, and we know so many ways to prevent it.  It's not a perfect science or system, but we have gotten really good at fixing hearts for those who have established disease, and we have the knowledge we need to prevent it.  It's a matter of taking the time to educate oneself, then caring enough to focus on it.

My next idea is.....does exercise have an effect on TMAO production?  I wouldn't think so, but maybe.  I know that exercise does effect nitric oxide levels, so who knows?

Lots to chew on.  I may not get any sleep tonight just thinking about it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

One Year Past Heart Surgery

I can't believe that I have had this blog up for over a year and that my husband's chronic total occlusion procedure was a year ago this past Tuesday.

It has been an amazing year.  He is still doing very well and still has not had a chest pain since the procedure last December 3rd.  I would say, in that light, that the procedure was a huge success.

We have been living on a low fat plant based diet  for a year now.

DH has since lost 50 pounds, has gotten off of his lisinopryl, bystolic, and had his Simvastatin decreased to 20 mg.  In two weeks, he will go off of his Plavix, and will only maintain a regular medication regimen of the statin and a baby aspirin.

He has grown in his vitality and happiness over this past year.

I feel healthier too, being able to exercise with more vigor, and sleeping better, although my hiatal hernia still gives me fits and makes me think I have heart trouble.

I am so grateful for this extra productive year we have had together and I'm hoping and looking forward to many more to come.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It's Only Just My Husband.....Uh, No. The Duggar Experience and The Guy at the Next Table

Post stent, I walk around look at other men who are around the same age as my husband, especially those sitting at the table next to us at the buffet restaurant (where we eat only low-fat plant based foods), and see the plates piled high with smokies, fried chicken, hamburgers, cheesecake, ice cream, and pizza.

I see the obvious signs of metabolic syndrome, the hard pooched out abdomen. I ask myself, "how are they getting away with this?"  My dh never ate to that kind of excess, but he still ate standard American diet (SAD) foods during the business hours,  probably twice a week, when he had lunch meetings with co-workers, and developed heart disease at an early age, nonetheless.

I felt a little validated last night when I watched the Duggar episode in season 11 on Amazon when Josh and Jim Bob, wisely decide to get a cardiologist conducted physical.  Kudos to them for being proactive.  I've seen the grilling hot dog episodes, the pizza parlor visits, etc., and have wondered, "How does Jim Bob do it?  How does he escape what I think is inevitable....heart disease?".

 But, to my validation, in the fitness challenge episode, he and Josh both get bad news.  Josh already, at age 25 has metabolic syndrome and a sentence to Type 2 Diabetes by the time he is 35, and Jim Bob has a total cholesterol of 241 with a LDL of 143!!!!!  DH was never that high, topping out at 235, but averaging 198, below the recommended amount.

It is too bad that most Americans are living from one meal to the next off of rich cholesterol rising foods, but, again, kudos to the Duggars for being proactive.Who has the guts to visit a cardiologist before the health crisis comes?  Most people are afraid of cardiologists and afraid the cardiologist will brush them off or laugh at them because they have come for an appointment, not having had a crisis to prompt.  Cardiologists do want to help their patients prevent a heart event and respect those who are proactive.  Also, I think most people who should visit one are afraid to visit one for fear of bad news.  I know I was afraid.

When I was having chest pains 1 1/2 years ago, which turned out to be GERD, I was terribly afraid to go for fear the doctor would tell me I needed heart surgery, but the cardiologist was very kind, took all of the necessary tests, and I went home relieved that my heart was fine, and narrowed down my condition to a more treatable condition (which was also treated with a low-fat plant based diet).

Seeing a cardiologist, as a preventive measure is very helpful to find out if you are at risk, but most of them don't know what makes you heart attack proof, so one needs to go for the diagnosis and then learn all he/she can about the right kind of diet to accomplish the best heart protection.

Fortunately, I was also in the queue with my cardiologist, but dh still didn't see him pre-crisis.

But, now he is proactive and more proactive than anyone I know being followed for high cholesterol, diabetes, or high blood pressure.

Every three months he goes to Walgreen's and gets his blood tested, and then passes on the numbers to his cardiologist, who has now lowered his Simvastatin to the lowest amount he feels comfortable without risking the destabilization of the plaques that were there, pre-2013.  He is now down to 20 mg., and completely off of his Bystolic, and Lisinopryl.  When does that ever happen?  He is proactive, and doesn't believe in the "pill cures everything" mindset that many Americans have these days.  I am so grateful to him for taking charge!

I hope my favorite TV family stumbles on to this blog someday so they can learn what it takes to keep those numbers down. It's not just a matter of throwing away the marshmallows and the jelly beans. It's also throwing away the oils, the meats, the cheese, the dairy, the flours, the sugars, the salt, and adding the vegetables, legumes, whole fruits, and whole grains.  It's educating one's self on the studies, and advice given by Dean Ornish, M.D., John McDougall, M.D., Neal Barnard, M.D., and most importantly, Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D who have demonstrated success in heart attack prevention without medication.

 To get the cholesterol to the heart attack proof level, it means going on a low-fat plant based diet, giving up those rich foods that are so much a part of the culture in the south.

Many think keeping a heart attack "at bay" means going on heart protective medications and that it's not necessary to change the diet.  According to the Mayo Clinic, these medications reduce the risk of a heart attack, but there are many side effects, and for further prevention they advocate diet, exercise, and stress reduction.  The medications help, but they don't offer a guarantee, and they don't make you feel well.  Metatoprolol and Bystolic, the blood pressure medications take away a man's adrenaline drive to exercise,  Simvastatin causes muscle aches and pains, blood thinners increase risk of bruising and bleeding.  To feel good, one needs to be off of the medications, on a heart attack proof diet, and able to exercise.

We believe DH could totally get off of the Simvastatin, as well, but his cardiologist would not do it without proof from an angiogram that his heart disease has reversed.  We believe it has because he has circulation in areas of the body where he has not had circulation in several years, but beings that the angiogram is so invasive he is stuck with the low dose of Simvastatin.

 But, back to the topic of the guy at the next table.....I'm grateful to learn that dh suffered from a condition that is not unique to him, not that I'm happy that most Americans sitting next to us at the buffet probably have metabolic syndrome and/or diabetes, or heart disease, and are ticking time bombs, and maybe walking around on heart medications already to prevent what happened to dh, but what is important is to know that just because the guy next to you at the buffet can eat a 5" deep plate of orange chicken without guilt doesn't mean he's not having issues.  Therefore, we need not yield to peer pressure, or compare ourselves with others who seem to be getting away with it, because most likely, they aren't.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

First Year Anniversary After Stent Placement

Yesterday DH celebrated his first year anniversary of the placement of his first stent.  Looking back, we would say the procedure was a success.  He is a totally different man today than he was a year ago.  Fifty-five pounds lighter, and energetic.  Last week he installed a 700 foot gravel road leading to our property, and today he is building garden boxes for a terrace hillside vegetable garden.

He continues to amaze his healthcare providers with excellent numbers, has been taken off of his blood pressure medications, and hopes to be taken off of his statins next week.  With a total cholesterol of 105, the pharmacist encourages the discussion with the doctor to take him off.

A year later, and looking back, I would have to say to those people who advocate stent placement, and medical treatment with heart medications, there's more.  Medical treatment is not the only treatment out there.  Look into following a low fat, whole foods, plant based diet, such as the one advocated by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., and Dr. John McDougall.

To my religiously zealous low-fat plant based diet friends who have been shredding former U.S. President George W. Bush for deciding to go ahead with a stent placement for his heart blockage found in a routine exam, which we now know was a 95% blockage, do not criticize a heart patient for submitting to stent placement.  You do not know the pain and disability they experience when an artery has that much blockage.  Until you have experienced it yourself, you have no right to judge.

From my experience, the marriage between the two routes is highly successful, and responsible care providers and nutritional counselors help their clients and patients best when they really care enough more about listening and caring for their patients, than trying to move their cause ahead.

I have to give huge kudos to our cardiologist.  He understands the importance of that marriage of complimentary treatments and thank you to him for providing us with a swift and accurate diagnosis, and speedy help for relief by arranging treatment through Dr. Mark Tannenbaum, our interventionalist.  And thank you to him and Rachel Unruh, who has followed him this past year for listening carefully to our wishes for DH to follow a low-fat plant based diet for part of his treatment, and for adjusting the medications as his numbers have shown improvement.

We feel blessed to have the best support team that one can have.  We hope others will read our posts, and with humility consider the improvements they can make to support heart patients through caring and good listening as they develop alternative health practices, nutritional counseling, and medical treatments to support a successful outcome for all heart patients. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The PVC/SVT Adrenaline Connection

These past two months I have been under an extremely high amount of stress.

We have been living in a rental home owned by friends of ours for the last two years, while we were hoping to implement our plans to build our dream home.  Then I got sick with my gallbladder and had it removed, and then my husband ended up with his two heart surgeries last year, so the building plans were put on hold.

This last spring we asked our friends to extend our lease to November so we could finally go ahead with our building plans.  They agreed and signed the lease extension.

One month later they decided to put the house on the market, and we soon found ourselves in a quandary of what to do, whether to go ahead and build, stay in the house until November and hope to find temporary housing for two months, or to break the lease, lose our deposit, put ourselves in jeopardy for a potential lawsuit for breaking the lease early so we could find a longer term temporary housing, or find an existing home to buy and try to talk the landlord into shortening the lease a couple months while we waited through our escrow process.

Because they had the house on the market, it turned out they really needed us out because a home with a tenant in it is far less desirable because the buyer has to honor the lease, so they agreed to shorten our lease to September while we look for an existing home.  We decided to keep life simple and buy an existing home.

It is all good because what we bought was our dream home, bigger than what we could build with a paradise backyard.

But the strain put on the friendship, and the process for improving and cleaning a home you don't own, that you are being forced to move from, is extremely upsetting.

Since the process began in June, I have had a major ramp up of my PVC's and SVT episodes, and because of this, I now know that stress plays a major factor in my heart rhythm problems.

Am I glad I am in this situation?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, because I did get the home of my dreams for less money than it would have cost to build it, and yes because I learned more about my body during this stressful period of time, but no, because a friendship has been strained as I have learned more about our friends and their integrity and value of relationships over financial gain.  Financial gain or, perhaps, preservation of financial status won.

This realization has caused many feelings for hurt, anxiety, worry, fear, and sometimes anger.

But, my heart has taken the role of regulator over my response to that anger.

With each period of anger has come either a bigeminy rhythm of my PVC's or an SVT.  I went from January to July not having any SVT's at all, and since July I have had three, and two of them in the last three weeks while we have been at the head of our stress, moving, and cleaning and preparing the rental.

Last night my anger was at the height and I suffered from bigimeny for the first time since I performed a piano solo in last April's talent show at church.

Bigeminy rhythm, to me is as scary as an SVT because the thuds in the chest are so strong.  Last night's episode, however, taught me that I MUST  regulate my anger.  As soon as I felt the PVC's turn bigeminy, I told myself, "Let it go!  You have to let it go!"  and my heart quickly went into regular rhythm when I said that to myself.

Upon researching this phenomenon further, I came across this excellent explanation of how this happens in a forum about PVC's on this web site.  This is a great discussion and I'm copying and pasting the post here for those of you who can benefit from this great explanation.  I know it will help me a great deal and I hope it helps others too......

 Nov 03, 2008
To: steph4501I can hear the frustration and fear in your post and I wanted to come and offer some information that may help empower you if nothing else. 
Doctors indeed do know what causes PVC's, the problem is that they don't know what initiates the reaction.  Every cell in your heart has the capability of initiating a contraction.  Most don't, and that "chore" is relegated to the SA node or your "natural pacemaker."  These specialty cells begin an electrical signal that causes all of the cells in your atria to contract, and the electrical signal reaches your ventricles which then contract a fraction of a second later.  Adrenaline and other chemicals are part of the endocrine system, and their job is to increase heart rate when you are afraid (fight or flight).  This chemical causes the SA node to fire more frequently increasing heart rate.  SOMETIMES, regular cells in your heart can become sensitive to adrenaline and others and they sort of try to "help out."  Thus, initiating a contraction that is "out of sync" with the others.  In the case of PVC's the source of these ectopic beats are cells in the ventricular area, with PAC's they are in the atria.   
One common denominator in ectopic beats is the adrenaline response.  That is why cardiologists often prescribe beta blockers as a first step in helping to alleviate symptoms.  The beta blocker "blocks" some of the adrenaline from being detected by the cardiac cells and therefore decreases the number or at least the force of the ectopic beats making them less noticeable.  Interestingly enough this sets up a negative feedback loop.  Your heart beat does not frighten you as much, you don't produce as much adrenaline AND what you are producing is still somewhat "blocked."  So, your heart beat calms...and you worry even less, which is less adrenaline and so on and so forth.  Sometimesdoctors will pair a prescription of Beta Blockers and an SSRI (Paxil or Prozac as examples) in low doses to lower the anxiety levels of those experiencing the ectopics.  This is not because the PVC's are in your head, or because you are weak, or because you imagine them or are crazy.  This is purely to reduce the effects of the positive feedback loop that feeds ectopic beats.  If you worry, you become anxious, if you are anxious, your body produces and releases adrenaline...which increases ectopics, which increases worry.  It is biological. 
As for "how do they know it won't kill you."  Well, no-one knows when their time will come.  All of us are living on borrowed time, we just don't know how much time we have.  However, in the case of PVC's and PAC's research has shown that people who experience these beats are statistically NO MORE LIKELY to die of sudden heart attack, heart failure or other cardiac causes at an early age.  There is a SLIGHT, but negligable, association of persistant ectopics (upwards of 10-25,000/day) causing cardiomyopathy.  This is not a common situation however, and if you are under the care of a cardiologist who will check on your symptoms usually annually, this is unlikely and if it does happen is treatable.  So...statistically speaking, hundreds of thousands of people experience PVC's (most with absolutely NO sensation of having them) and their cardiac induced mortality is no more than those who do not have the ectopics. 
While I totally understand your desire to remain "drug free" you may consider going on a very low dose of beta blockers (I only take 12.5mg/day or 1/4 tablet) to help reverse the positive feedback loop.  Once your PVC's begin to calm down, you may even get permission to only use the BB's when you "need" to.  Mostly I use them when it is the week before my period or when I'm ill--both of which increase adrenaline levels.  (FYI the female menstrual cycle often results in mild anemia which is a trigger for adrenaline induced increases inheart rate--and illness increases heart rate to amp up the immune response). 
I hope I did not bore you.  For me, knowledge is empowering.   
Take care..."

I'm so very grateful to others who have taken the time to help people like me manage this condition.  I know I must learn to control my anger, to not be so fearful, and worrisome, and even consider medications if I find that the mental energy I'm putting into calming down doesn't work.  

So far, I have been able to control the last three SVT episodes by laying down and distracting my thoughts, and last night I flipped back out of bigeminy also by controling my thoughts, so hopefully, I am on to something here.  

I would love to hear other's experiences from those who have made discoveries on how to manage these benign and annoying heart rhythms through biofeedback and care of mental health.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Vagus Nerve and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia (POTS)

I found this excellent comment from a anonymous commentator on Wisegeek  (click here to see the actual discussion)today that explained so very clearly what may be causing my heart beat troubles, and how it relates to the vagus nerve.  It also has a very good discussion on anxiety in relationship to this condition, as well.  I'll copy and paste here....

It's worth noting that there is a condition called POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia) and this is also related to the vagus nerve and can account for a lot of symptoms on here. I know this because I have it, as well as getting heart pauses and extra beats. It works like this: the vagus nerve, if malfunctioning, drives the blood pressure low and sends signals to the heart to compensate for this, so the heart gets faster and faster until the blood pressure catches up. This can cause a whole load of symptoms, like dizziness, fainting, getting lightheaded, vomiting, headache and heart palpitations, but the good thing is it is not dangerous.
If the worst were to happen, your heart will simply stop because it's run out of ideas, but here is the catch: as soon as you lie down or collapse, it restarts and will every time. Your blood pressure will return and you're back to normal. This is a newly diagnosed condition and is thought to be related to the vagus nerve.
This is where the rest comes in with back pain, chest pain, pain in your arms, etc. It is quite simply anxiety! This is a crippler. Anxiety can mimic a heart attack quite easily. It causes sickness, heavy breathing and muscle tension. It also affects the digestive system, because when this happens, the fight or flight response occurs and your body will send everything it has to your heart, brain and other vital organs to keep you alive! I know this because I have had it for a year with a 10 out of 10 for severity and am only now just learning how to deal with it. The body can quite easily handle anxiety and it will not kill you, but it can ruin your life if you let it. The thought of death consumes you and your train of thought will get worse and worse, which makes the anxiety worse because it feeds off it
Please, if you have these symptoms in any way and you have been checked out treated or just told you are O.K., then you must find the strength to pick yourself up and keep going. Do not stop. You might be scared and fearful of death, but if you are going to die, there is nothing you can do about it and sitting at home dwelling on it won't make a difference. You must fight, continue your life and keep going.
Anxiety is you. It's your thoughts that drive it. Once you stop fearing death, you can continue your life. What I mean by that is it doesn't matter what you are doing. Nothing is going to happen to you. Continuing your life is the answer. If you work, then carry on. If the worst is going to happen, it will, and it doesn't matter if you're in bed too scared to move or out running a marathon. Your body decides when it's time, not you. But you can help yourself by walking and looking after yourself. As long as you do your bit, the body will do its bit.
The vagus nerve is a fascinating thing and controls most things we so heavily depend on, but we can help ourselves. We need to just take care of ourselves and trust the professionals. Like my doc always says when I see him, “Well you're still here alive. Now do you believe me?” That is something to always remember: You're still here reading this and you will have a long life!

Whoever you are, anon329693thank you for caring enough about others suffering from this condition to post.

Vagus Nerve. That Good Old Vagus Nerve.

My PVC's are getting worse, and I have been in deep thought as to why.  After a discussion on another blog, which I discussed on my last post, with an alternative medicine doctor who is trying to influence the world of SVT on one blog, I was left to ponder all day about his suggestion that PVC and SVT sufferers should get their tissues analyzed for mineral deficiencies, and while I agree that one can not know whether they have a deficiency with blood tests done in a doctor's office.  I am very good about making sure I take the proper amounts of potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

This morning I woke up with a stomach ache.  In fact, it feels like I have been glutened again, and feels, somewhat that my gastritis may be returning.  No doubt, I'm in the middle of a major move to another house, and under quite a bit of stress.

I'm realizing that my PVC's are related to this stomach pain.  Both appeared at the same time.  And the stomach issues and PVC's have come and gone together over the past year.

So today, I'm going to begin an experiment.  I'm going to buy some mastic gum, and start taking it, and see if the PVC's calm down, if my stomach starts to heal.

If so, than I can pretty much be assured that it's that old vagus nerve causing all of my trouble.

Interestingly, I have had some swallowing related pain, as well as some difficulty with choking on my foods lately, and the vagus nerve also control swallowing.

I'll get back and report my findings, as soon as I know.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

What an SVT Patient Needs from His/Her Provider

I recently had a discussion on another SVT sufferer's blog Heal SVT Naturally with an alternative health care provider.

Let me first say, I do believe in alternative medicine.  And he is proposing that SVT sufferers suffer from what they do because their minerals are imbalanced.  I don't disagree.  In fact, I agree.

But, when he proposed that SVT suffers spent their money on his outlined treatment instead of spending money on EKG's I had to reply.

Here is his quote....

“I’d like to make one final suggestion to those diagnosed with SVT. I wonder if the time,effort, and money necessary to capture an actual event via EKG may be better spent having an HTMA done and following the diet/taking the recommended supplements?”

I know he didn't mean harm, but this suggestion would be an outrageous suggestion to anyone who sufferers from SVT.  Anyone who has not been officially diagnosed is "dying" to know what they have, and he could no way know who strong that desire to know (and how important) to know what the condition is.  Anyone one who has been officially diagnosed, knows very well, how reassuring the SVT diagnosis is, because the condition has a good prognosis for those with structurally sound hearts.

Anyway, I responded in such a manner, because I felt he was ignorant of the seriousness of our worries, and un-empathetic.....

1. You can not be diagnosed with SVT without an EKG. It has to be captured and read by a cardiologist to get a diagnosis. A person may have some other arrhythmia caused by a previous heart attack, high blood pressure, or valve disease, and it is most prudent to know whether one has the benign condition of SVT or some other arrhythmia that points to a potential cause of sudden cardiac death. The structural condition of a heart suffering from arrythmias should never be trivialized. EKG is the most responsible use of dollars when SVT onsets, and I only pay $40 for mine. Money well spent for diagnosis and reassurance.
2. Even seasoned SVT sufferers, those who have even suffered since childhood and know what their condition is, and know that it is benign, can feel an extreme feeling of dread when going through an episode, even with all that they may know about their condition.
3. Without an official diagnosis, and test to see if the heart is structurally sound, one can not know his/her prognosis or chance for an unfortunate random fatality.
4. Once one has had the event captured, and an ultrasound/stress test proves a structurally sound heart, the worry factor decreases immensely, and the coping mechanisms become amazingly effective.
5. No one at this point offers guarantees of a cure, not you (even though I appreciate your wanting to learn more about how to help those with the condition), and not regular doctors, nor cardiologists. With all it’s a “let’s try and see” approach, nothing more, nothing less.
EP doctors have cured SVT, but they still don’t offer a promise of healing, and the healing rate is currently expensive but at 95% which is a pretty good promise, if your willing to go for it. But in all cases, one must go by faith, at this point, in all treatments, even mineral balance and change of diet. But I feel energies are best spent, at least from the beginning of an active SVT cycle, like I am in, to learn how to cope, manage, and educate oneself.
6. The patient needs reassurance and stress management first and foremost and as quickly as possible. Once that kicks, then and only then, can they have what they need to explore alternative ideas.
7. I have met and talked to many well meaning people with theories, offering help, and trying to offer reassurance, but to the sufferer their attempts seem to be trivializing what feels like life and death matter. People who go the alternative route for diabetes, allergies, cancer, and even coronary heart diease feel like they have time to explore options. People with their hearts beating out of their ears at 160 bpm’s feel like they are going to die now and want answers now, and unfortunately to us, theories, and suggestions seem un-empathetic.
But to those who suffer, the best healing balm, is to compare notes, and socialize with other sufferers. Why, because they have survived and thrived, despite the condition.
Cancer patients may receive hope from other cancer survivors, CAD patients may receive hope from other CAD survivors, but with SVT, the hope offered from one survivor to anoother is the greatest because the condition is benign for those who have structurally sound hearts, and once the new sufferer, as myself, becomes exposed to more and more SVT sufferers, they begin to learn that many people have lived long and healthy lives with this condition. This gives more hope than anything, and relaxes the person into living a more normal life.
8. It is also known that SVT suffers have additional electrical cells in their hearts that they are born with that lie dormant until some time in life. For me, it started after I had H1N1. Mineral balance would support a higher threshold but it can’t take away those errant cells. Only a catheter burning can do that.
Thank you for taking the time to learn more about our condition. The time you are investing in it can only help those you work with in the future. SVT sufferers can be very fearful about their condition, and the doctors that have been the most effective with me are those who have been empathetic. It is a very human condition that needs an extreme amount of the human touch of empathy in order to gain a patient’s trust and faith in treatment.
The best healing moment I had was when the paramedic held my hand on the way to the ER last fall when my SVT would not convert until after two shots of adenosine. My heart rate was at 180 bpm’s and shot up to 200 bpm because of the fear factor. Even after the second shot my heart rate would only go down to 100. When you think you are dying, you want the human touch more than anything, and it heals and gains trust more than anything. It was his holding my hand, although I didn’t even know him or his name, that brought the heart rate down to 80.
Keep studying and talking to other sufferers and your knowledge and empathy will be much appreciated by your SVT patients, and they will gain faith in your protocol.
Normally, I would link to the discussion, but I don't wish to drag his name through the mud.  But I hope that others who are trying to know how to meet, especially the emotional, needs of their SVT patients or family members, would come to know that when others trivialize the condition, or try to offer a no-guarantee cure, they only look un-empathetic and prideful in their attempt, and trust from the sufferer can not happen.  You are essentially hitting a brick wall. 
If the person who is advising the SVT patient with a protocol only to financially gain or gain notariety, first of all, shame on him, and secondly, good luck.  SVT patients are the least gullible, and the most demanding for sure answers, not just theories.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

SVT Today - Positional Trigger

So, the SVT's that I have had this past year fall in this timeline....

October 2012 - Lasted for an hour and had to have adenosine conversion by paramedics.

January 2013 - Lasted for 15 minutes and converted on my own.

June 2013 - Lasted for 20 minutes and converted on my own.

July 2013 - Lasted for 5 seconds and converted on my own.

August 2013 - Lasted 7 minutes and converted on my own.

In all of the cases above my SVT's were triggered either by slouching or bending at the waist.  My new focus will be to eat smaller and more frequent meals and bend at the knees.  It's better for my back anyway,  right?

I would be the happiest person on this earth if I could go many months without an SVT, and avoid medication, or surgery by these two relatively simple lifestyle changes.  I'll keep you posted.

On the conversion front, vasal vagal maneuvers have never worked for me.  Even when I had the paramedics with me helping me do them in October, they didn't work.  Vasal vagal maneuvers just make me more panicky, because they aren't working.  At the suggestion of others who have successfully converted on their own consistently, I have learned that sitting or lying down quietly to quiet my speeding heart works best.  I can't be thinking about the SVT.  I have to have my mind occupied with something else, and in the last six conversions that's what happened.  Someone in the family said something to get my mind off of it, and it converted on it's own.  I also drink five 8 oz. glasses of water and take a magnesium pill.  I don't know if it's the water, the magnesium, or the quieting, but I will continue to do all three because all three are good for me.

I will say that the conversion is one of the best feelings in the world when it happens on it's own.  More updates to come.

Are you dealing with SVT?  Please know that if you are, you are not alone.  I have concern and care for anyone who deals with this condition.  I hope that together we can all come up with a non-surgical/non-medication solution for this, but it helps to know you are not alone.

Boy, I am a lot more calm about this condition than I was a year ago.  I still hate it, but I'm not as anxious as I used to be about it.

I'll let you all know if I have anymore after trying my new changes.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Off of Bystolic and on with Living

My husband has been off of bystolic for a month now.  Yesterday, this is what he spent his day doing.....

Because his low-fat plant based diet is giving him a good number count, and because the Bystolic was making him not want to exercise, he was weaned off it to see if he would regain his energy, because all he wanted to do was be a couch potato.  Now off of it, he has regained his drive (no pun intended) for living and doing again, and he took on the huge project of restoring our Suburban.

We are grateful for doctors who listen and have faith in him to live this lifestyle.  By the way, the 55 pound loss was making it really hard for him to keep his jeans up yesterday.

Time to go shopping.

How to Tell if Your Health Guru is a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Since 2008,  I have extensively studied the writings and tested out the diets of four medical doctors who promote plant based diets that claim to reverse disease.  My online interactions with these doctors and study of their books, listening of there tapes, and watching of their YouTube videos have taught me a lot about how to tell if they are conspiring for money, or generally hoping to reach and help as many people as possible.

Here are the characteristics that I have learned that are warning signs of a wolf in sheep's clothing.

1.  They charge exorbitant amounts of money for you to gain full access to their program.  I don't mean huge amounts of money to buy their books or tapes, per say,  but to gain clarification of their program you have pay a subscription on the their web site to have access to them, or staff that they have hired to take their place in giving you further counsel.

2.  They promote themselves in various forms on TV, i.e. public television.

3.  They show up on Doctor Oz on a regular basis

4.  They fail to provide studies or concrete evidence that their findings do as they say.  Maybe their theories are too new to provide data, which is a warning sign because the other doctors have data dating back to ancient times because they have studied the human population and have found what promotes longevity.

5.  They make generalizations in their claims.

6.  They have an online store that sells vitamins.  I mean if you need to sell vitamins, then can the diet stand on it's own in giving you all of the nutrients that you need?  And if you are taking a supplement, then how do you know if it's the supplement of the diet that's doing the trick?

7.  Their books cost more than $20.00 on Amazon, or they sell DVD's, books, and cassette tapes in one package for one to education themselves on the program.  If you need to digest that much material to learn the program, than how easy is it to follow, and to remember how to live on a daily basis?  A healthy diet plan should be so cut and dried that a person could easily know what is fine to eat and what is not, even if they are miles away from their resource materials.

8.  They make general promises with amazing claims like.... "if you need a stent and delay your angiogram for 12 weeks, you can avoid surgery by following my program".

9.  If you make a comment derogatory to their claims on their public media or social media sites, they delete it.  I mean if they truly have faith in their program and that their claims can hold up to scrutiny than they shouldn't feel threatened by any dissenting views, and they can feel confident that consumers can decide for themselves.

10.  They get very defensive when placed in a debate with another health guru on the topic of which diet is best.

11.  They contradict themselves.

12. They provide point systems for you to decide which foods to eat.  One should not have to count anything when deciding what foods to eat.  They should be able to know right off the bat if that food should go  in their mouths or not, and that food would be nutritious no matter what their score is, and the person would know it immediately without having to think about it.

How to tell if your guru is not a wolf in sheep's clothing....

1.  His success in helping others has stood the test of time.  Meaning that before he puts his information out there, he has patiently gathered his data over years, and proven it out before writing and publishing a book on it, and after that book has been written and published the public seeks him out to provide testimonial and many, many testimonials can be found in many public venues.

2.  He does market things on his web site, but not vitamins and supplements, but items that help you to help yourself, i.e. cooking tips, books.  And those things are provided ala cart so you can pick and choose what you want for a reasonable price. They try to help you become more self-reliant.

3.  They don't charge a monthly subscription to gain access to their advice.

4.  They make themselves as accessible as humanly possible to the general public.  For example, one man can not address the queries of every single individual that wants to have a piece of their advice, but they will continually provide free videos online of their counsel, and make available all of the material of their program in various forms for free for those that are looking for it.  You should be able to find every piece of their program online for free by gathering from the materials they provide for free online.  Not that it will all be in one place, but you can easily put together all of the information of the program yourself by your own research by finding material they have made available, not by material that others customers have made it available.  In other words, they are truly trying to reach as many people as possible to share their message without those people having to pay money to gain their information.

5.  You find that many others have claimed to be able to talk personally to gain free knowledge from this person.

6.  High profile people that have been on their program have be shown to stay on it for a long time and appear to keep their health.  For instance, I have been following the life of one woman that cured herself of cancer following a certain health program, and she has been on the program for decades, and continues to be able to be cancer free and run marathons in her 80's.

7.  They freely associate with other health gurus that follow the same principles of access, and don't view them as a threat, but collaborate and work with them to bring more good to the world.

8.  They associate with others that help the public to gain access to knowledge for free through social media venues.

9.  The medical community has gained curiosity about their long term findings and provides resources for further studies, and in time those medical communities promote their programs, i.e. Kaiser Foundation embracing education to patients on the low-fat plant based diet for heart patients.

10.  They have many resources and studies to back up their claims.

11.  They do not delete you when you make any comments on their Facebook or blog posts that challenge their claims.   They know their program can stand on it's own and are not afraid to let their readers decide for themselves.

12.  They do not contradict themselves.  For instance, one guru said, I can cure and reverse your heart disease, and then in another sentence on his post he said, those with severe heart disease need further guidance.

13.  They practice what they preach, and have the health and longevity they are promising you.

In a nutshell, I don't care if the guru who is a wolf in sheep's clothing has a good program that promotes health or not.  If you are regularly spending money on them, they are a wolf in sheep's clothing.  And, if your guru is not accessible to you without feeling like you are shelling out money here and money there, maybe his program is not dangerous, but it could be, but maybe it's not the best that is out there, and maybe it provides health but not optimal health.

I want to say, you shouldn't have to spend a lot of money to gain access to a healthy nutritional program, because healthy nutritional programs were developed over hundreds of years.  They are not developed. They are discovered and exposed. To do this, you have to be willing to stand the test of time.  You have to discover and promote what others have discovered and lived...what has worked through the ages, and then you have to use yourself as the guinea pig, practice what you preach, and then stand the test of time yourself.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Off of the Bystolic

Dh was able to go off of the blood pressure medications due to his good numbers, and due to the fact that the Bystolic was dragging him down to depression and lack of will to do anything.

He has been off of it a month now and what a difference it has made!  I have gotten my husband back.  He is happy, has his drive back, and we are now able to pursue a house building project that a month ago he abandoned due to his lack of drive.

His headaches are also gone now too.

He is still on the Simvastatin, but he no longer complains about how his is feeling.  It's been great to see him willing to do things with the boys again.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Success Story Letter to the Engine 2 Staff

Dear Engine 2 Staff,

I've been waiting six months to tell you our success story.  I've been so excited about the changes in our life, I couldn't keep my typing fingers from flying on the Engine 2 Facebook page for months, but I never had a true success story to tell until today. 

In December 2012, I had a premonition that I needed to improve our family's diet, particularly mine.  I discovered Dr. Esselstyn's seminars on YouTube and made an immediate change to my diet. I bought both the Engine 2 book and Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease and started using the principles in both books in January 2013.

 Three years prior, we had been following the Eat to Live diet about 80%, but cheating on Friday nights when we went out on our date nights.  I would order an Eat to Live legal meal, and my husband would eat whatever sounded good...Afterall, it was just one meal.  I knew he had a family history of heart disease and I just prayed for him to stay healthy.  I had some hope that he would since he was following Eat to Live plan the rest of the week. 

I hesitate to mention the specific plan that we were eating prior to our change here but my efforts to not bring up ETL in prior conversations online, and explain to others what we were doing when my husband became ill, have created many misconceptions with others when talking to them on how moderation kills, even when we are eating a high nutrient vegetarian diet. 

In July of 2012, I had by that time lost 30 pounds following the Engine 2 plan.  My husband, on the other hand, was gaining weight and developed left arm tingling and fatigue, which he thought was post flu fatigue. He was still moderating on the animal products  one to two meals per week, but he read Engine 2 and was, at the time, starting to get excited about the diet and the exercise program which he started at that time.

By October 2012, he was complaining of chronic flu symptoms.  He was still moderating on the animal products, but about 90% plant based, eating peanut butter, and breads with oils in them, and salad dressing.  He developed right and left arm pain, sweating, and pain in his upper left chest by his left shoulder.  We finally got him into the doctor on October 16th.  He was scheduled for an angiography two days later which showed a 100% blocked right coronary artery with collateral circulation, and a left circumflex 99% blocked artery.  He was a heart attack waiting to happen.  (He never did have one, however)  At that time his cholesterol was in the 180's, with a dangerously low HDL of 28 and triglycerides in the 300's.  He is 49 years old.

 He was taken in immediately for an angiogram and stent placement on October 18th for the left circumflex artery.  They were unable to fix both arteries on the same day and scheduled a six week return for the second artery in December.  They then sent us home with still a 100% blocked right coronary artery. 

I e-mailed Jackie at and the next day Dr. Esselstyn called us and talked to my husband and taught him how to eat to protect what he had left and to protect himself for the weeks to come.  He drove home to us to be vigilant on sticking to every point of the diet 100%.....and to not cheat.

 His hope was that we would be able to avoid that second surgery, and that was our hope, as well.  I credit the diet with keeping him from having a heart attack those next six weeks, and during that time we went back and forth trying to decide whether to go ahead with opening up the 100% blocked artery or not, because my husband was feeling somewhat better and we had faith in the diet to reverse the condition.

We wanted to try and see if we could manage with the 100% blocked artery with just the diet, with no second stent placement, but in December when the chronic total occusion repair was scheduled, and after several sessions at cardiac rehab, it was decided that the disability of the 100% blockage was too difficult to live with due to the pain and disability he was experiencing.

We followed the diet strictly between the two heart procedures which I believe impacted the surgery which was estimated to be a five hour procedure and ended up being 30 minutes.

Now here is the success part of the story.  It is, I think unprecedented to have a cardiologist take a stent placement patient off of the cocktail of heart medications prescribed in the hospital.  However, our family has strictly eaten the low-fat plant based diet that Dr. Esselstyn recommends since October 18th 2012, and both my husband and I have gotten our cholesterol numbers checked every six weeks since then, having excellent numbers each time, mine just in the 150 range, and my husband between 88 and 131.

 My husband made a spreadsheet and recorded his numbers with each of those tests so that the cardiologist could see our commitment to our new lifestyle and the results of that lifestyle.  She was mightily impressed when we presented those numbers taken every six weeks to her today.  She said, "You are my only patient who has done this lifestyle change, and you are the only one that has had this type of change in numbers.  I think we can wean you off of your medications." 

So, today, I am happy to announce that this week my husband will be weaning off of his blood pressure medications, and in July he will be beginning the process to wean off of the Simvastatin, under his doctor's care.  I have to add, that I don't believe this is ever done, a heart patient being taken off of heart medications.  Usually, once put on them, they are put on for life.  We have told three doctors, two cardiologists, and one family medicine doctor, our plans to get off of the medications and they have said, "Can't be done."  

Today's consultation with his doctor and the results of that made us so shockingly happy!  He totally expected her to discount our test results and wishes, and expected a battle with her, but she saw that the need was no longer there for the medications.  We had to do our part to give her the scientific data through the numbers and spreadsheet, but she also was open enough to consider them.

Maybe we didn't feel brave enough to avoid the second procedure that happened after we received Dr. Esselstyn's counsel in October, but we have still maintained hope that continuing to follow the diet would produce results to reward our faith in this lifestyle change, and it has.  

This past Father's Day, the gratitude was definitely high for me as I realized that many gifted people, those cardiologist that are following my husband, and listening to us, and those who have given us guidance on eating for our optimal health, Rip, Dr. Esselstyn, Jeff Novick, Dr. John McDougall, specifically, have given my husband not only another Father's Day to celebrate, but in the words of our cardiologist, "many Father's Days to come!"  

In deep gratitude,

Debbie Hadden

Friday, June 14, 2013

Reliable SVT Triggers for Me and Conversion Techniques

Today I had my first SVT in five months.  I knew I was at risk for one because I have been having digestive trouble due to ingesting gluten.  I had lots of diarrhea yesterday, it was hot, I was outside sweating all day, and I was having a lot of PVC's.  SVT's, for me, always come on the heals of PVC's.  I've never ever had SVT's without PVC's first.

This morning I was squatting while sorting some sockets for my husband in the garage.  I felt a few PVC's and thought, "I shouldn't be squatting."  But, I was so intent on getting my project done, I ignored the warning, and then boom, and then race.

I went into the house to try and convert it through drinking a lot of cold water, coughing, having a BM, soaking my face in ice water, and even trying to sit upside down on the couch.

I drank more water and took a magnesium pill.

It still wouldn't convert after 30 minutes, so I decided just to go to Urgent Care to get an EKG and blood work done.  I'm still pretty new at this so it's nice to get the reassurance.

Halfway to the Urgent Care the SVT converted on it's own when I was "chillin'" in the car and talking to my driver, my calm 7 year-old son.  I did decided to continue my visit to the Urgent Care, however.

Everything checked out fine and I'm glad I went in because the doctor told me they have adenosine in Urgent Care and don't mind administering it.  He said, "Don't you ever worry about coming in to be checked out if you need reassurance."

I have learned two things about Urgent Care doctors.  They are usually very conciliatory with any complaints of the heart, and they are usually excited to assess a possible broken bone.

  I'm so glad the doctor said what he did because this means I can feel free to go to Urgent Care which is down the street from me, instead of dealing with going 10 miles away to the ER.  It means no more ambulance rides and the costs associated with.

That knowledge right there will go far in helping me to convert on my own for future attacks, because another ambulance ride to the ER has always be foremost in my mind when I'm trying to stop the SVT, and they drives up the adrenaline which keep the SVT going.

Each SVT that I have and convert on my own makes the next one easier to deal with.  They are still unnerving, but they are not making me insane anymore.

I have now had six SVT's the past two years and my consistent triggers have been, diarrhea the day before, being upset, having canker sores in my mouth, bloody gums (all celiac's issues), no sleep, and the action of squatting or sitting forward on a full stomach.

Some  things I just can't always avoid, and so with my great work in trying to avoid them failing today, I have learned that just like an epileptic has to deal with seizures from time to time, I have to deal with SVT's.  The Urgent Care doctor pretty much helped me learn that that has to be my mindset.  It helps to accept the condition a little bit better.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

After Stent Placement Pain

It has now been five months since DH had his last stent placement.  It still freaks me out a little bit that he developed heart disease so early and so easily.  I mean, yeah, he ate the Standard American Diet from time to time, but for most days of our marriage, he has been a healthier eater than anyone else that I know, personally.  Usually he only ate fatty greasy animal foods, and desserts on Friday nights, and an occasional lunch out at work.  This is a guy that snacks on full heads of romaine lettuce or cabbage right from the bag, but washed, of course, which he has done since I met him.

 It also sorrows me, and I try not to think about it too often, that he has two pieces of metal in his heart.  Yet, twice in the last five months I have had very sobering reminders through his development and reporting of chest pain.

Since the last stent placement, he has reported to me twice (three or four days into each experience) that he has been having chest pains, similar to the ones he had but not as strong as what he had from September to December, when the CTO stent was placed.  

These two experiences, remind me that although he has been repaired, he has not been cured, and that we must be vigilant on our preventive measure to keep his stents and the rest of his arteries from closing up.  This includes monitoring his cholesterol and triglycerides carefully, and frequently, taking his prescribed medications, and being vigilant on the his low-fat plant based diet.

Adding to that protocol is exercise, and this has been an essential tool both for assessment and for feeling better.

One and half weeks ago, he reported to me that he was having chest pains again.  Of course, I wanted to take him right to the ER, but he said, "No, the pain is only at a 2, and I will know when it's time to go and when it's time to take nitroglycerine."  So, I decided to keep the report under advisement and observe him myself to see if he was showing any heart signs, i.e. dizziness, shortness of breath, and distracted looks when I'm trying to talk to him.  He showed none of these signs, so I suggested we go do something fun and distracting.

We went bowling.  He was having a good game, and so was I which makes him happy.  Halfway into the game I asked, "How the chest pain?"  and answered, "You know?  It's gone!"  We decided we could then test out his heart further with a brisk walk later in the day, and still no pain.  So, we walked again the next day, and he never showed any signs of heart disease, no shortness of breath, no dizziness, no fatigue, only a relief from the stress he has been experiencing, and finally, a relaxed and content look on his face.

Both times that DH experienced his multi-day periods of chest pain, once reported to me into the 3rd or 4th day, we tested out his heart with gentle exercise, and when the pain did not worsen, we upped the intensity with no resulting angina, and both times the exercise got rid of the chest pain.  This is why cardiac rehab is such a valuable tool, but he decided not to take advantage of it due to the lack of insurance coverage for that benefit.

Whether the chest pain is cardiac or a non-cardiac in nature, which I believe it is the latter, the first initiation of exercise has eliminated the pain.  Therefore, I believe the pain to be caused by physical inactivity, and either the build up of toxins in the body from being sedentary, thereby causing inflammation, or the stressing and tightening of the chest wall muscles from being under stress and being exhausted from lack of sleep.  During both periods of time, DH was under a lot of work and church work related stress and went for several nights without good sleep. Both times he also developed a cold.

The stress has not lifted up from work, but the daily walks we have been taking since then have helped DH to sleep well, and his outlook and stamina has also been better.  

I am hoping this article will help anyone with post stent placement pain to cautiously ease their minds as post stent placement pain is possible and there are several causes for it, without it being an impending heart attack.

It is my belief that the medications given to heart patients are protective, but if you are eating a high saturated fat diet, post angioplasty pain should wake a person up to changing the lifestyle urgently, not next week, not tomorrow, but this minute, because as Caldwell Essestlyn, M.D reported studies that it takes at least six  hours for a person to recover from a fatty meal, as opposed no recovery time needed for a low-fat plant based meal.  If you are still eating the Standard American Diet, and you develop post stent pain, it's even more imperative to report that pain to the doctor, because all it takes is one meal of saturated fat to injure the endothelial cells and cause damage, and possibly reclotting, and we now know that fragile infant clots cause heart attacks, not the existing plaque.

DH, however,  has been very careful, and he knows that moderation in diet for heart disease patients kills, so we decided to monitor his pain before calling the doctor, through increasing activity (our own little stress test in a sense) to see if exercise induced the pain, which it did not, but relieved the pain.  So we are confident that the pain is non-cardiac.

I am happy to report that DH also not only passed the BSA swim test this past Saturday, but said he could have kept going another ten laps.  Two years ago, we swam daily at the YMCA for the whole summer, and despite his daily exercise, he was fatigued after four laps, and I often noted that his face always got really red when he swam.  Not the case now!!!  So, his confidence, and my confidence in his abilities is increasing.

We do keep it under advisement, however, that this condition he has, we can't know exactly what is going on in his heart without actually taking another look through angiogram, so we are always cautious and keeping in tune with how he feels, never giving up the notion that the cardiologist phone number should always be handy, and the nitroglycerin always in the pocket, even if he hasn't felt the need for it since December.

Best wishes to all of my friends out there who are dealing with the post stent life.  I know what you are going through!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Amazing Ellsworth Wareham, M.D.

I just happened on this awesome video on YouTube while I was looking for YouTube videos on how to guide my kids to learn computer programming languages.  Wow!  The Internet is amazing!!!!!

Dr. Ellsworth Wareham has been a cardiothoracic surgeon at Loma Linda until at the age of 95.  He retired in 2010  "to spend more time with my family".

He became a vegan about 40 years ago.  He said he never really had a huge taste for meat, but grew up on a farm where it is readily available.  I'm posting this fantastic YouTube video for you to watch.  There are many priceless gems of truth in what he not only says, but has earned the right to say with his 98 year-old vibrance......

Interview with Ellsworth Wareham, M.D.

Like Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D. who save my husband's life with his dietary advice, he states that keeping our cholesterol numbers low, he stating 140, Esselstyn stating 150, makes having a heart attack at those levels very, very rare.

He says that since his cholesterol is 117, when he has chest pains, he knows that it's his esophagus causing the pain, or some other structure like a hiatus hernia, which I have found for myself to be true.  My cholesterol is 150.

He also addresses that he recommended to all of his patients a diet change, but most were unwilling to change.  I have also found this to be true.  With my celiac's, I have seen many people with the same symptoms refuse to consider a celiac antibody test for fear it will be positive and they would have to give up bread.  My cardiologist says that his patients wouldn't give up meat unless he chained them to the basement, even with his promises for reversal.

Dr. Wareham states that tastes can be changed in three months time, a person just has to be willing to do it.

The only people that he knows of who have demonstrated the capability of reversing heart disease are Dean Ornish, M.D., and Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D.  and they have done it through recommendations of following, primarily, a low fat plant based diet, and exercise.

Just to point out, when DH had his last stent placed, his cardiac interventionalist told him he'd back in not a long distance of time for another procedure.  What kind of hope that gives to a person as they are leaving the hospital, having just had a traumatic experience.

Dr. Ellsworth Wareham and his message, and those messages of Drs. Esselstyn, and Ornish provide tremendous hope for past heart surgery patients, patients with no surgical options, and people of all walks of life who are genuinely concerned about their heart health.  I believe that God has placed these wise, old, healthy men, on the earth at this time to bless His children with hope in a time when "men's hearts shall fail them."

God bless them for willingly and freely providing their messages of hope and their fine examples of healthy living!

Mastic Gum Got Me off of Omeprazole

A year ago, I was hospitalized with severe and continuous chest pains.  All heart tests showed that my heart was very healthy, so the doctors headed into my stomach with an endoscopy and found severe gastritis and a duodenal ulcer.

Ulcers and gastritis cause a lot of gas and chest pressure.  This is what I was experiencing, but I also had a sick and burning pain in my stomach.

I was put on Omeprazole 40 mg.  The prescription was to take it for a year, but by January, having been on Omeprazole, I was starting to show signs of nutritional deficiencies in the form of my fingernails becoming very brittle.  I would just bump my hand on the wall or something and the tip of the fingernail that got hit would just bust off.  I have always had very strong fingernails, so I soon blamed the Omeprazole.  I do need to say here, however, that the Omeprazole was effective in decreasing my symptoms, and I would take it again if I didn't have other options.

Having celiac's disease already makes me vulnerable to deficiencies, so I'm always focusing on identifying signs that I am developing them.  I have tried several times to wean off of the Omeprazole by going 40 mg one day and 20 mg the next, and then 40 mg the next day, and then going 20 mg the next week on the first day of the week, nothing on the next, and then 20 mg on the next.  The doctor said this weaning process was important to prevent rebound acid production that would be at higher levels than there was previously.

I would do fine with the 40/20 weaning program, but the stomach acid would come back, as well as the gastritis on the the 20/0 plan.

I was still having some pain, while not severe, it was clear I wasn't progressing as well as I wanted in my healing, and the Omeprazole was making me feel dopey.

Being sick of taking the Omeprazole, I finally decided to do something else.  I ordered Jarrow's Mastic Gum after reading about it on Amazon.  It had so many positive reviews!  I tried it for some time with just 500 mg. and it did nothing for me, so I went back on the Omeprazole for a time, and then when my pain became more manageable, I dropped the Omeprazole, and went back on the mastic gum but went on a higher dose than I had before, to 1000 to 1500 mg. depending on how I felt for the day, which was up from 500 mg. the first time I tried it.

I have now been taking it for a month.  I went cold turkey off of the Omeprazole, which one should probably never do, which was against my doctor's advice, but I had had it with the Omeprazole and couldn't take it another day.  Just like with the Omeprazole, I take it on an empty stomach 1 hour before breakfast and with 16 oz. of water.

In this month's time, my stomach has improved dramatically!  I have no more ulcer pain or gnawing pains in my stomach or duodenum, and if in the afternoon, I feel a little nauseous, I take an extra 500 mg.

I have known about mastic gum for a year, since I started the Omeprazole, but I didn't take it because at the time I was on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and mastic gum is forbidden on that diet.  That diet, by the way, never cured me of my digestive problems, but did send me into the need of a gallbladder surgery, and clogged my husband's arteries necessitating the stents placement and the birth of this blog.

I believe the mastic gum is working because, although I did have triple therapy for H.pylori, and although I asked my doctor for a follow-up test 3 months after therapy because I was still having symptoms, I believe that I was one of the 15% that didn't have a complete eradication.  Mastic gum has been proven to kill
h. pylori in studies (click here to read the studies), and taking it, I believe, has brought bacteria numbers down that were re-colonizing in my stomach.

Why do I put this post on a heart blog?  Because chest pains that are non-cardiac in nature caused by gastritis and stomach ulcers can cause the same type of pain as a heart attack.  I know from my own experience that this is true.  Having had a spouse with chest pains, his description has helped me to know that some non-cardiac chest pains can be hard to decipher from heart related chest pains.

This knowledge can help those with health anxiety to calm down about their heart health if they have had a clean bill of health placed on their hearts, but still have perplexing pain.  But, if you do have chest pain and haven't had at least a stress-echo done on your heart, I would not dismiss cardiac reasons for chest pain, until you have at least been on the treadmill.   CT angiography is even better if you can get somewhere that has an CT angiography machine like our cardiologist has.  And by the EKG's do nothing for ruling out heart disease.  DH had many of those as recent as two months before his first angioplasty.

But.... if you have been checked out properly, the use of stomach healing nutrients like mastic gum may help eliminate some or all of that pain.  I am not earning any profit from Amazon on this blog.  I want to keep my pledge to not earn any kickbacks for providing my own experience to help others out through my blog posts, but I am including the link to the Jarrow mastic gum for your convenience.  Here is the link.

I sure hope this helps someone out, because the information was not easy for me to find, and it would float my boat, if someone was able to get relief sooner than I did.