Having examined the title to this post, you are probably saying: "Who in the world is this Brady Cardia person? I have not seen his boxing matches advertised on Xfinity on Demand?"
The answer would be that bradycardia is not a person. It is a heart condition – I mean, this is a heart health blog right? So I occasionally throw in some medical terms so you can keep the sometimes amusing, sometimes serious tone of this blog in context.
So here is the context: Medtronic, a healthcare company, defines bradycardia as a slow or irregular heart rhythm, usually fewer than 60 beats per minute. At this rate, the heart is not able to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body during normal activity or exercise. As a result, a person with bradycardia may feel dizzy or have chronic lack of energy, shortness of breath, or even fainting spells.
The next question you are asking is “why would you ever imagine that you are engaging in the sport of boxing”. I agree that it is an odd concept. For reasons that have been hard for me to understand, boxing is a popular sport. To me, it always seemed to be a bit brutal. So imagine my surprise when I was reading up on boxing and found that it was earlier known by the name of Pugilism, meaning “sweet science.” In fact, I saw a number of articles linking the terms “boxing” and “sweet science”.
When I queried “why is boxing referred to as the sweet science”, the answers were a bit vague to me. The clearest answer I found is from someone named Johnny Nguyen. He said: "Because it’s a cross of science AND art. Because it has finesse. The idea that by being supremely skilled, you can beat a bigger opponent. If science was all about being bigger and stronger, boxing is a step higher in that you need the “sweet” skills to really be successful."
Let me clarify, it is not my choice to be boxing with bradycardia and its other heart damage conspirators. But it occurred to me that just when I think life with heart failure is beginning to improve, I get sucker- punched and go down on the mat. But if I have to engage in a sport that I did not initially admire, I at least like the suggestion that even if heart failure is bigger than me, if I am cunning, skillful and fast on my feet, maybe I might be able to beat the odds. And maybe I will not only stand my ground but even start to overcome heart failure in some meaningful way.
My heart problems came to my attention in 2013 (although for all I know, my boxing opponents could have been lurking behind the scenes, sparring with each other as they got ready to enter into the ring with me). So they were probably gaining the advantage by starting to jab at me before I even knew what was happening.
Maybe if I had known the work that my seasoned opponents were up to as they were in the ring taxing my heart muscle, I would have taken action. I could have readjusted my life balance, gotten more rest, tried to lessen my stress. Looking back on how I was sucker-punched, it just seems so unfair. But as a friend used to tell me, fair is something you go to in the summer to buy cotton candy and ride on ferris wheels. And in life, fair does not seem to be a factor in who does or does not come end up with heart issues. So I had to learn to get over the lack of fairness and learn the art of boxing with bradycardia.
When I first learned about bradycardia, it was not good news. I wanted to walk up ten flights of steps again and run in 8K and 10K races. But how would this even be possible if I had a pronounced lack of energy and shortness of breath after just one flight of stairs? This really sucked! Life looked up when I learned that there was a fix that might solve my problems. The doctors could put this battery pack in my collar bone area and I could charge back up to the level of energy I used to have. I figured I would be bounding up those ten flights of stairs in no time.
But then I got a strong left jab to my gut. I heard the question from my doctor: “Has anyone ever told you that you have damage to your heart?” It took the breath right out of me for the rest of the day. Because it was more than a question – it was a fact. I had damage to my heart muscle. How did that opponent even get into the ring?
But I was not down for the count yet. As soon as that pacemaker was in me, I was itching to start back and do any exercise I could do. I just had to realize that as the saying goes, life is a marathon, not a sprint. So I would find some training I could do that would strengthen my heart and build my stamina for the long haul. Plus, I thought it would help not only my heart health, but my energy level as well, when I was prescribed beta blockers and ACE inhibitors. Hopefully that would give me an edge over the other contenders in this ultimate prize fight. And it did seem to help. But…
Then I started to feel the effects of a new pugilist by the name of Chronic Hypotension. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, this guy uses the ring name Low Blood Pressure, and his best move is to cause dizziness and light-headedness. Do you know any boxer who can land a knockout punch when the room is starting to spin upon standing? And this boxer is cheered on, and maybe even became a contender because of his buddies: bradycardia, heart valve problems, and heart failure. Great – now I wasn’t just not fighting a solo act – I was fighting an army. What chance did I have?
But encouraged by my patrons, the cardiac professionals, I was told to hang in there and to keep up the exercise. Because the only way I could best this underhanded, sneaky fight club was to condition my heart to go for 10 rounds or longer. So I kept up the rigid schedule of exercise I set for myself each day: gym time, walks around the neighborhood, light weight lifting, etc. And I was doing well until…
My greatest contender, Ejection Fraction, entered the ring. I mean, this guy was more agile than the great Ali. Talk about floating like a butterfly, stinging like a bee? Well when a contender can get down to a ejection fraction of just 15, he becomes so fast, that you don’t see him come in for the kill. Once the sting occurs, you’re buzzing from the impaired pumping of your heart. I felt like I was screwed.
But among the things I inherited from my beloved Mother are her persistence and stubbornness. I was not about to give in when there were more rounds I wanted to fight. So I kept up the exercising so that I could continue to hold my own against some very unscrupulous contenders – I mean these guys are so big and nasty they must be on steroids. But sometimes even they are not matches for the Missouri Mule stubbornness I inherited from my Mother.
I did learn something as I began writing this post. According to Shape Magazine, boxing is a two-for-one cardio workout that targets the entire body. Among other things boxing: flattens your belly (at last, something that might help stun the water retention), it knocks out stress, it builds grace, and safely pushes your limits.
As the result of writing this particular post, I have begun to look for some workout routines that incorporate boxing (but without having to spar with actual partners). I always like to incorporate new things into my workout that will keep it interesting and challenge me without overwhelming me or my heart. So get out your best punches, heart villains. I’m getting ready for you.
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. Since that time, she has been learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth.