It all started innocently enough. I went to my primary care physician complaining of dizziness and a pain in my back. A quick ECG or electrocardiogram revealed a very fine and operational heart muscle. Still, being at an age where heart disease is considered a possibility and having several increased risk factors, my doctor decided that a trip to see the cardiologist was in order.
After all I thought, how could there be a problem with my heart? I just carried several 50 pound boxes down three flights of stairs only a couple of weeks ago. Still, I thought it better to at least get a baseline so we could measure any change as I got older. And the fact that the dizziness didn’t go away was still troubling.
The next test was a treadmill or stress test. Because of the dizziness and nausea however, the heart diagnostic group decided that a chemical stress test was in order. They inserted an IV and took pictures of my heart muscle before being stressed. The idea is that they could then place my heart under some strain and see the reaction. Kind of like a before and after type set of pictures. I could give you the medical names of the test and drugs but I’m not a doctor and prefer to offer the description from the patient point of view. So after the initial set of pictures, the technicians inserted chemicals into my body through the IV to chemically “stress” my heart while carefully monitoring my status. A short wait and yet another set of pictures.
In about a week, they called with the results. Instead of saying it straight however, I was told only that the tests results showed there may be a problem and to schedule an appointment with the cardiologist immediately. Now I don’t like the sound of immediately so it must have been critical or more important that just seeing “something.”
After talking with the doctor, it was decided that another battery of non invasive tests were in order. This time, it was a modified like CT scan. They were looking for verification of calcium deposits in my arteries.
This test agreed with the stress test results and showed calcification of the arteries, or arteriosclerosis. From all the tests, it appeared as if I had some problem developing but how serious was still an issue. There was however a blood test for calcium that indicated a level higher than 90% of the people my age. That did it! The doctor now wanted and almost demanded to go see what was going on.
An angiogram was in my immediate future. An angiogram typically is an outpatient procedure where the cardiologist opens an artery in your leg and works a camera into the heart muscle arteries. It sounds a lot worse than it is but the benefit is that you know exactly what the status of your heart and arteries are at that point in time.
End of Part 1