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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe...

Just like the ads for the Jaws sequel, there's always something lurking.

For me, I learned this past summer when I met my family in California, heart disease is a part of my genetic history. My father had the first of his three heart attacks at age 35. My brother Dan suffered a heart attack just a few months ago; thankfully he survived and is thriving.
So while I'm surprised that I've had some discomfort and all in the past few weeks, I'm not shocked. After all, some 24.1 million Americans had some form of heart disease, roughly 11 percent of the population, in 2006. There were 652,091 deaths caused by heart disease in 2006, ranking it as the nation's top killer with a rate of 222 per 100,000 people in the general population.

All that said, I met with Dr. James A. Miner of Florida Heart Group on Tuesday (photo from the Florida Heart Group Web site). He was concerned with the repeated chest discomfort I've experienced in the past few weeks and sent me onto the treadmill. I kept up well, though got out of breath when the tech set the machine at the Mount Everest-level climb. Dr. Miner sat in on the test and then reviewed the printouts.

Afterwards he offered this summary: "Either it's nothing or it's something." I'm happy with the former, less so with the latter. If it's something, it may be a clogged artery, meaning I'd need a stent.

To find out, on Friday I wake up very early and go in for a cardiac catheterization. This is where they slink a very thin tube up to the heart through arteries in the leg. There, with the aid of X-rays and a fluroscope, the doctor can observe the heart and decide whether there's a problem.

I've spoken to a few people who have undergone the procedure and all pretty much assured me there's a very low level of discomfort. Actually, one assistant at Dr. Miner's office said there's some pretty good pain drugs afterward. I guess that's the reward for good behavior.

I'll post updates Friday after the procedure and will tray to grab a couple of images from the doctor to post.

Meantime, it is safet to go into the water. Just watch where your step.

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