Does Family History Dictate Your Heart Health?

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"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."

Continued on page 4:  My Levels


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