Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

How many warning signs?

Wick's World


Clearly more warning signs than a summer drive down road construction on I-35 were not enough to make this blockhead aware that he may have a heart problem. The information coming from a patient can mislead the best doctors; I was able to mislead several.

I was so darn sure that the coughing spells and the blood-stained phlegm were caused by a virus, infection, germs or bacteria that I picked up on the train from Vancouver three months earlier.

There were many other warning signs I missed. Shortness of breath may not be walking pneumonia. That recently added extra 15 pounds may not be all fat (in my case it was retained fluids). High cholesterol and high blood pressure readings should be no-brainers; they are signs of danger. Don’t overlook a high pulse rate. It may mean your heart is working harder than necessary.

Here is the warning sign that seems obvious in retrospect. What do all of these places have in common, besides the fact I was a recent visitor: Denver and Crested Butte, Colorado; the Black Hills and Casper, Wyoming; Flagstaff, Sedona, and Payson, Arizona; Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and Mt. Diablo, California? The answer is I spent the first couple days at each vacation spot suffering from what I had diagnosed as altitude sickness. I was correct, but unaware that a leading cause of altitude sickness is a weak, overworked heart.

The warning signs were all over the place. Why was I so arrogant to think that nothing could possibly be wrong with my heart? I give credit to my hometown doctor for calling the right shot on that one, and just in time.

Ironically, when I fractured my sternum last year a doctor had warned, “You better hope you never need open heart surgery or we’ll have to cut that sternum back open and you’ll certainly feel it.” He was referring to the surrounding damaged muscles and all the pain associated with the healing process, and his warning was accurate. During open heart surgery, the surrounding muscles get worked over. Much of the pain associated with the healing process from heart surgery is centered on the muscular more than the skeletal.

So, beware of the signs and symptoms that are precursors to heart troubles. Learn to read the labels on processed food and be aware of how much salt you are really ingesting. I have a pretty good diet compared to most, but warning signs were there too.

Now I am working hard to get back to being physically fit, changing my eating habits and looking at my other habits too. After all, our illnesses are projections of our life styles, so the warning signs are telling me to change.

No one said it would be easy, but here I am, a little less wealthy, but a little more healthy and wise. Remember, heartaches don’t only come from being jilted by your sweetheart.


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