Does Family History Dictate Your Heart Health?
"It's great to have longevity in your family, but that makes it even more important to take care of yourself and stay fit, because if you're going to live a long time, you want to live well," she continues. This I did understand, since in the past year I'd begun, for the first time in my life, to exercise regularly and watch my weight. I'd gone from a size 14 to a size 8 and was spending money on a personal trainer instead of a therapist on the theory that if I were going to feel inadequate anyway, I might as well be inadequate and toned. Did I mention that I don't put much faith in therapists, either?
When I tell Dr. Andersen I sometimes get palpitations, she asks for specifics: Regular or irregular? When do they happen? And do I get shortness of breath? "No, it's usually when I'm having thoughts like, 'Where are the kids and who's picking them up and did I buy a present for Saturday's party and when was that story due and what happens when my husband dies and I'm all alone?'" I say. "You know, the usual. A gimlet usually clears it right up."
"I think you may be self-medicating," she says. I concede that this is true.
We go into Dr. Andersen's examining room and she checks my resting pulse (58 -- not Olympic-athlete level but not bad) and my lying-down blood pressure (128/78). Later she checks it after I've been moving, and it's still only 134/80. This is pretty good but surprising because it's usually about 140/90 when I see a doctor; last time I went it was 160/90. (It was also high when I was pregnant; I was hospitalized for possible preeclampsia.) "Well, you must like me," she says. She's right. I'm more relaxed than usual at a doctor's office. "Resting blood pressure is often taken incorrectly," she continues. "When you're stressed, your blood pressure goes up pretty quickly."