A number of years ago, the band Maroon 5 had a hit with the song “Moves Like Jaguar”. The Jagger referred to of course was Mick Jagger. The Song Facts website relates the following about this tune:
Diabetes is a health condition that runs on my mother’s side of the family. I remember learning in my early teens how demanding and unrelenting this chronic condition can be. A great aunt who was diabetic visited us after we moved to the Washington, D.C. area. We were out touring the mall, where the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial can be found. This was in the 1970s so the medications for diabetes were much more limited. I recall clearly that my great aunt was not disciplined in monitoring her condition to make sure she did not have a diabetic reaction.
We were walking along the mall and she informed us that she did not have a snack with her, and she had to eat something right away. She did not look well. This was long before food vendors and food trucks filled the mall area and we were concerned about finding her something to eat. We finally found a place that at least sold snacks and she avoided having a serious diabetic reaction. It was not a pleasant experience, and the episode may explain why I am so careful with my diet, because I realize my healthy diet (or lack thereof) can facilitate or torpedo my chronic health condition.
I went out for a walk in the morning on the first Monday in February. It was supposed to be a nice day with unusually mild temperatures. Given a recent show event, mild air would be a good thing - right? But as I was walking I noticed that I didn’t feel great. My head just began to feel so congested and I could tell that I was a bit more winded as I went up inclines.
Usually when I return home after a brisk walk I feel invigorated. But when I came through the doors of my condo I felt more spent than anything. What was going on here? I took off my coat and began to look at my iPhone to see if I had any e-mails. I also took a look at the weather.
You may not be familiar with Title 36 of the United States Code. It is the title that is devoted to the subject of Patriotic and National Observances, Ceremonies and Organizations. Section 101 of Title 36 states:
The President is requested each year a proclamation -
(1) designating February as American Heart Month;
(2) inviting the chief executive officers of the States, territories, and possessions of the United States to issue proclamations designating February as American Heart Month; and
(3) urging the people of the United States to recognize the nationwide problem of heart and blood vessel diseases and to support all essential programs required to solve the problem.
I recently started taking Entresto, the new heart failure drug. The product information insert that comes with the Estresto lists the following side effects and instructions: “Angioedema that may cause trouble breathing and death. Get emergency medical help right away if you have symptoms of angioedema or trouble breathing. Do not take ENTRESTO again if you have had angioedema while taking ENTRESTO. People who are Black or who have had angioedema and take ENTRESTO may have a higher risk of having angioedema”.
Trust me, this is a notice that will get a heart failure patient’s attention immediately. Heart failure routinely comes with shortness of breath, so needless to say trouble breathing and death are both huge concerns for heart failure patients. But I did not know what angioedema was, or why it might cause a patient to have difficulty breathing. I wondered if it might be helpful to include a description of angioedema in the product information insert.
Over the last nine months, several friends have experienced unusual heart beats. Maybe they felt like their hearts were beating too fast, or even missing a beat. They did the smart thing and went to see the doctor. They were instructed to wear event monitors for a while which would track their heart beats and enabled them to register any unusual feelings that they experienced during the time that they were wearing these monitors.
So what was going on with them? I’d like to be able to tell you in plain English. But just like the legal profession, the medical profession uses peculiar terms that the lay person does not easily understand. They tend to use short hand terms or acronyms to describe or define medical conditions. As you may recall, a previous post covered how the short hand term “A Fib” is used to define a heart condition that indicates a racing heart.
I think I have written in previous blogs about the fact that I have a leaky mitral valve. This can also be referred to as mitral valve regurgitation. Yes, I know - once again I am using another strange term that is chock full of consequences. So I probably need to do a short course on mitral valves and the concepts of regurgitation and prolapse.
Let’s start with the part of the heart that is at issue - what is a mitral valve? Well, according to the website cedars-sinai.org, the mitral valve is one of the heart’s four valves. These valves help the blood flow through the heart’s four chambers and out to the body. The mitral valve lies between the left atrium and the left ventricle. Normally, the mitral valve prevents blood flowing back into the left atrium from the left ventricle.
Because people know I write a blog about heart failure, they often ask me questions about various heart terms they may have heard. Recently, a friend asked me what the term “heart murmur” means. I had to admit that I did not know the answer, but suspected it might have to do with a heart valve.
Well, imagine my surprise when I started to research the issue and realized that I probably fall in the category of people with heart murmurs! So I decided that it is a perfect topic for a blog post.
You may have seen a number of commercials lately where the term “AFib” is used. The narrator is not referring to a tendency to tell a little white lie. Rather, these are commercials to promote drugs that treat a heart condition known as atrial fibrillation, also known by the shorthand term AFib.
So what is AFib? According to the Cleveland Clinic website: “Atrial fibrillation is the most common irregular heart rhythm that starts in the atria. Instead of the SA node (sinus node) directing the electrical rhythm, many different impulses rapidly fire at once, causing a very fast, chaotic rhythm in the atria. Because the electrical impulses are so fast and chaotic, the atria cannot contract and/or squeeze blood effectively into the ventricle.”
This post demonstrates that my post ideas can develop from the most surprising scenarios. I might be in the midst of an innocent conversation with people I barely know, or reading something totally unrelated to heart failure, and I will learn an interesting fact about the heart.
A few months ago, a friend invited me to an awards ceremony at her Federal agency. I was honored to see her receive an award because I know how hard she works to address legal issues at her agency with empathy and foresight. Her approach to the practice of law in a Federal agency mirrors what I tried to implement for years: Respect the client’s talents, understand the client’s environment and help the devise tangible, practical solutions to the client's issues.
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. She spent the next 7 years learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth. Then in October 2020, she received a heart transplant. This blog is about her journey of the heart.