NorthShore’s online source for timely health and wellness news, inspiring patient stories and tips to lead a healthy life.
The middle aged man sat cheering his favorite football team. Just after the game while sitting in front of his TV, he felt strange: lightheaded, sweaty, somewhat short of breath. He tried to stand, but felt worse. So he sat and re-gained his composure. He noted a slight bead of sweat on his brow and felt like he just couldn’t take a full breath in. Other than that, he didn’t feel too bad at first. So he waited a bit. “Maybe going outside will help,” he thought. He managed to walk outside and did feel a bit better for a while, but when he returned inside, he felt the same. Slowly, nausea overcame him and he had to go to the bathroom and get sick. Again after that, he felt improved but never felt back to normal. He waited a bit more and called his wife. He described to her what he was noticing as she googled his symptoms: some 399,478 search results appeared. She read the list to him: heart trouble, stomach trouble, neurological trouble – the possibilities seemed endless. Uncertain what to do, they finally decided to call their family doctor. “Do you have any aspirin in the house?” he asked. They scoured their cabinets. “I can’t believe it!” she said. “No, we can’t find any.” “Then why don’t you take him over to the Emergency Room right now to get checked out,” the doctor suggested. They thought about it a bit and because his symptoms had not resolved for over an hour and a half, they agreed. Upon arrival to the emergency room, he was found to have a sustained heart rate of 206 beats per minute at rest – far outside the normal 50-100 beats per minute he should have had. The process to determine the cause and treatment were started immediately and, gratefully, he left the hospital several days later with his treatment regimen in place. So why should you care? Because sometimes, despite all of the information available to all of us these days thanks to news agencies, public service announcements, smartphones, and instant search engines, heart disease can present in unpredictable, unimaginable ways. When it does: denial is our worst enemy in providing effective treatment. So if you’re not sure if your symptoms could be caused by your heart, don’t wait. Get it checked out. More often than not, you’ll be glad you did. -Wes Fisher, MD