I always looked forward to my annual physicals because I thought I had nothing to worry about. Even now, at 34, by all measures I am in excellent physical condition. I work out and I am a coach and personal trainer. I don’t smoke, and hardly drink. My blood pressure is 100/60, cholesterol is low, resting heartbeat is 42bpm and my body fat is at 10 percent.
I liked it when the nurse would tell me that I had the lowest resting heart rate he or she had seen in a long time.
I was all ready to hear the applause in my recent physical, but something on the EKG wasn’t quite right. Turns out, I tested positive for Atrial Fibrillation. According to the American Heart Association, AF is a quivering or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) that can lead to stroke and other heart-related complications.
My doctor described it to me like this: It is where my heart beats and sometimes the beat is off due to electricity that controls the heart. The reason this is bad is that on beats when AF occurs not all of the blood in my heart is pumped out. A percentage of the blood stays behind. This blood can clot. The clot can cause a stroke or heart attack if the clot becomes too large. An estimated 2.7 million Americans are living with AF.
Because the AF persisted on the first EKG, I’ve undergone a follow-up EKG and wore a Holter belt for 24 hours. The Holter belt is a mobile heart monitor that I wore for 24 hours to see if the AF persisted. My Holter belt test came up negative on a recurrence of the AF.
Currently, I have made an appointment to see a heart specialist to see what needs to be done, if anything. I will do what it takes. I want to live a long and healthy life.
There is a public service announcement on ESPN Radio with the message that “real men wear gowns” because they get their annual physicals and check-ups. I couldn’t agree more. Avoiding the doctor because of some fear of the unknown is not going to help you or your family. Even if you’re not someone who looks forward to your annual physical, get it done. If something is not quite right, chances are it can be treated. And if everything is great, well that’s some peace of mind.