How Covid-19 helped treat my Angina.
Being locked in your house against your will for 2 months has its benefits, if you look for them.
See, what had happened was…
I’ll be 48 this year. I was in my early 40’s when I first noticed a small, but sharp localized pain in my chest. Just under my left areola in a spot called the PMI or Point of Maximum Impulse—AKA, the apical pulse.
It’s the spot where the Heartbeat can be heard best with a stethoscope. The “apex” of the heart rests just behind the physical landmark of the left nip. Go ahead and look for it, you have one!
This part of the Heart is called the Apex even tho it’s at the bottom-most extreme of the heart muscle because if you were to turn the heart upside down it sort of resembles a pyramid and this point at ‘the bottom’ of the Left Ventricle would be the ‘apex’ of that funny looking triangle. So it’s the “apical” pulse even tho it’s at the bottom of the heart. Isn’t science fun?
Angina can be felt anywhere in the chest around the sternum, also in the neck, jaw, shoulders, back or arms.
Depending on how closely you paid attention in Biology class– (myself, I was trying to get a glimpse of Becky Anderson’s ‘Apical Pulses’ through her shirt sleeve) –you may remember that the heart has its own circulatory system known as the Coronary Arteries and Cardiac Veins.
Whenever a person experiences Angina or “chest pain” related to cardiac Ischemia (lack of oxygen), it is because blood flow through the coronary arteries is insufficient to supply the heart muscle with enough oxygenated blood to maintain normal cardiac perfusion.
In other words, the heart never stops beating and so it needs a lot of oxygen to do its job—and if it doesn’t get enough for some reason—it will let you know about it.
A lack of Oxygen to the Heart, in the extreme, is called Myocardial Infarction—better known as a Heart Attack. So, you could think of it as your heart trying to tell you something. And what your heart is saying is… “Hey dummy! Look Here” Which is exactly what my heart said to me a few years ago.
At first I dismissed it as indigestion or something benign. “I can’t be having angina” I thought, “I’m only 40 something and 40 something is the new 30 something which is the new 20 something so pretty soon I’ll be a teenager again—and teenagers don’t have angina dammit!”
Besides, I’m in great shape. I exercise—sometimes. I hardly ever eat McDonald’s, or at least I mix it up—there’s some Wendy’s in there, and Taco Bell—and SUBWAY! People who eat Subway are healthy, right?
Anyway it went on like this for some time. The human capacity to deny reality is truly impressive. It literally took a global disaster to get me to think more about my health and life choices.
I never thought I’d live to see a “Global Disaster” and I’d like to live long enough to see the next one. Wait a minute, that didn’t sound good after it left my brain. Oh well, you know what I mean.
So with all the extra time on my hands’ thanks to the quarantine—and the knowledge that I had been trying, unsuccessfully, to ignore a potentially dangerous health problem for quite some time—I decided to do something about it and promptly began to explore the internet for…
That’s right…cat videos. Then I discovered TikTok—which nearly sucked my brain out through my eye sockets, so I finally got smart and…
Netflix Baby! Okay, so after a quick tour of that and Amazon prime and Disney Plus ‘Baby Yoda!’ Awe… I was just about to dive headfirst out the window—which wouldn’t have done much since I live on the first floor—when I finally-finally started looking into angina and the heart muscle and here’s what I re-learned.
The heart is just like any other muscle basically, so if you exercise it, your heart will improve.
With Stable Angina, regular aerobic exercise, (Running, swimming, biking etc.) will help the heart to become stronger and more efficient. Aerobic exercise can also promote Coronary Angiogenesis (The creation of, or improvement in Coronary circulation)
This improvement within the heart muscle will help increase blood flow and oxygenation, lower blood pressure and, increase cardiac efficiency, thereby reducing the oxygen demand and strain on the heart muscle.
This overall improvement in cardiac health can help reduce angina and the probability of a heart attack down the road.
So I started riding a stationary bike and jogging on a treadmill. (Indoors, with my mask and gloves on. And a condom… just in case)
I tried to get at it almost every day, at least 5 days a week for an hour each day. Sometimes I split the hour into manageable pieces like two 30 min sessions or three 20 min sessions, especially at first when my stamina wasn’t that great.
Within 1 month I noticed a difference. After 2 months I could run a 5K in less than 30 min again, something I hadn’t done this century. And, most importantly, the angina I was experiencing once or twice a week has all but ceased. In other words—my heart stopped yelling at me.
So, if you feel your heart kicking you in the ribs with a pointy shoe—pay attention—talk to your doctor about it—and pick up the pace a bit. You won’t regret it!