Magazines and on-line info is helpful to learn about your condition – but only use the info under a doctor's Supervision!
I received my copy of the AARP Bulletin for January and February and was intrigued by one of the items pertaining to the heart in the “Your Health” section. It was called: “Heart Strong, How 5 Numbers Can Save Your Life.” So I eagerly turned to the page with this information hoping that there would be some late-breaking medical news that would help me conquer heart failure.
Alas, it was not to be. Instead, I found something called “The 3-minute Heart Risk Quiz”. This was also subtitled “the back-of-the-envelope equation from AARP and the American Heart Association.” It was designed to provide a “deep dive into the crucial numbers that determine your cardiovascular health” and to provide steps to help those at risk improve their heart health.
There were a number of questions and each answer was assigned a score. The higher number of points you scored, the higher the ranking you received on the “cardiac-risk spectrum”. I scored 3 points for being between the age of 59 and 65. But I scored zero points each for the other five risk factors: smoking, blood pressure, BMI (body mass index), fasting blood glucose and total cholesterol. So my total score was 3, which means I was in the first category of 0 – 7 points, or at low risk. The commentary that accompanied the quiz said that I was in generally good cardiovascular shape.
So obviously if you have been reading my blog posts for a while, you probably have concluded that a woman with a miserably low ejection fraction, who has an implantable pacemaker/defibrillator, who must watch her diet, fluid and sodium intake, and who must engage in a battery of pesky heart tests each year is not who you would consider to be in “good cardiovascular health”. Either that, or my doctors are scamming me!
Fortunately, I have very good doctors who are simply relaying to me the sad but very simple truth. I am not in good cardiovascular shape. I have a significant cardiomyopathy and I need to exercise caution and common sense to keep my heart health from tanking any further.
That does not mean, however, that the quiz designed by the AARP and the AHA is without value. The quiz in AARP is indeed useful. It appears to be focused on people who have heart risk issues brewing such as: diabetes, hypertension, or perhaps even plumbing problems in the heart. As my blog posts have demonstrated, my heart issues seem to stem from an electrical problem. So where is the AARP/AHA quiz that would score the risk for electrical type heart problems.
I suspect there may be no accurate warning signs for someone like me. You see, I was told that we may never know what caused my problems, that it could have been the result of a virus. Think about it. If you are at some point in your life exposed to a virus that causes your heart’s electrical system to go haywire, well how would you predict that? So I doubt that there is a quiz question anyone could have asked me in advance that would have allowed me to be aware of potential danger down the road that I should plan for accordingly.
So I have had to face the sad fact that I fall into the category known as an anomaly. During my federal career, we often referred in the world of budgeting to “anomalies”. So you’re asking me what is an anomaly? I found a number of slightly different definitions, but the one I like best is from “Your Dictionary”. It said: The definition of an anomaly is a person or thing that has an abnormality or strays from common rules or methods. It is true that I have never been accused of being normal, and I often do stray from the path that others would take. I worked for a federal agency that often described it’s mission and programs as “unique”. I too used to love being unique. Now it is my greatest wish to fall into a category of normal or average.
I was able to find some quizzes that seem designed to make people more aware of the symptoms of heart failure. I would have preferred to gauge my risk for a certain disease or condition so that i could have avoided it before it happened. But failing that, I I have come to realize that it is a good idea to know what the symptoms of condition are so that you know when it may be time to consult a doctor, or if you are already seeing a doctor, you that you can alert the doctor that your condition is deteriorating
I found a quiz for congestive heart failure that was on a website called “fun trivia quizzes.” I found it a bit odd to include a life-threatening condition into a category of “fun”. Trust me, if the creators of these quizzes on the site had to actually live with congestive heart failure, I suspect that they would decide that it is neither a fun nor a trivial condition. But I will admit that the questions were good ones.
I also give kudos to the American Heart Association for trying to remain light-hearted and relevant to the social media/21st century lifestyle. Their articles and catch phrases are often tongue-in-cheek. So there is a quiz on their website called “What the HF?” I love this name for the quiz, because it parodies the slang “WTF”. When I worked in a law enforcement agency, my language was less than pure, and I used the “F” word a lot. In fact, for several years I gave up the “F” word for Lent and failed miserably. So when I first saw the “What the HF” quiz, well it made me chuckle.
I received a perfect score on this quiz because I live the condition of heart failure each second of the day. But I doubt that I would have scored so well years ago when I thought heart health was excellent and would continue to be that way for years because I had such healthy habits. At least those habits that i had the sense to control – I can’t say I had a healthy level of stress, nor did I deal with it well. Where are the quizzes that rate this risk and give you realistic, practical tips on how to improve?
The website for the relatively new heart failure drug called Entresto also has a five question quiz to familiarize people with the symptoms of, and best practices for, people who have heart failure. There are also links providing information about what Entresto is and why it seems to be the new miracle drug for heart failure.
I really need to emphasize that people should never uses these quizzes to engage in diagnosing their own conditions. The quizzes will never, ever take the place of doctors. But they are valuable tools that will help to keep us more informed about our health, and maybe even serve as a wake-up call. So for those purpose they are relevant and constructive.
But I also like to see quizzes like the one in the AARP magazine, even if that quiz incorrectly finds me in good cardiovascular shape. The reason is that it makes me realize that up until the time that there was damage to my heart’s electrical system, I kept myself in really good physical shape. And if it hadn’t been for my discipline and devotion to being healthy, my heart condition might be much worse now. Or I could even be dead – in which case, it would be awfully difficult for me to produce blog posts to keep people informed about how to live with heart failure!
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.