My friend, Jane, has a history of heart disease in her family. Her father, whom she was extremely close to, died in his early 60s of a massive heart attack. His brother had suffered with chronic heart disease most of his life, and his mother also died suddenly from the same illness.
Following her father's death, Jane became more knowledgeable and aware of issues related to heart disease and heart attacks in women. In fact, she and her siblings were determined to stave off the deadly disease, and undertook several measures to stay Heart Healthy. They ran, they exercised, they maintained healthy diets, and they stayed on top of news and issues related to cardiovascular disease in men and women.
The problem for Jane was that even though she knew better, she Hated going to the doctor. She had given birth to several children over the years, and after spending so much time at mandatory appointments for herself and them, going to the doctor's for her own annual physicals just wasn't high on her priority list. At some point, one of her doctors told her that as long as she was young and healthy, that an appointment every few years was acceptable, and that annual physicals weren't all that necessary. So, time went on and Jane stayed healthy and went to the doctors every few years.
Now Jane is in her mid-40s -- though she looks Much Younger! When she turned 45, she decided it was time for a real doctor's appointment and a primary care doctor she could rely on. Her mother recommended one, and things proceeded as Jane had predicted. Uneventful and 100% healthy for her age. So, as was Jane's usual behavior, she decided to skip the next year's appointment and avoid the entire hassle of waiting months to see a primary care doctor.
As luck would have it, because she missed her annual appointment, the doctor's office actually called Jane. They informed her that she was on the list of patients who needed an appointment, and would she like one, since there was an opening the following Tuesday. "Sure," said Jane, "See you then." She called a friend who lived nearby the doctor's office and scheduled lunch. The least she could do was look forward to some lunch and shopping afterwards to reward herself for getting through the anxiety of the appointment.
At the appointment, the doctor's nurse took Jane's usual measurements of weight (same, unfortunately), height (same, really unfortunately), and blood pressure. "Your blood pressure's a little high, Jane," said the nurse. "Oh, that's because I hate coming to the doctor," said Jane. "Okay, the doctor will check it later anyways," said the nurse.
And, she did check it .... twice. As a result, Jane's appointment did Not proceed as she had anticipated. After taking Jane's blood pressure twice, the doctor informed her that she was sending her immediately for an EKG and bloodwork, that she wasn't leaving until she checked out okay, and, oh, by the way, she was putting Jane on a medication for High Blood Pressure, since her blood pressure was, oh, in the range of, um, I think Jane said, 176/101.
"Yeah," Jane told me later. "I couldn't believe it. I told the doctor right then that if I had a heart attack I was going to be PISSED! The only reason I even Came to the doctors was to make sure I didn't die from a heart attack, and if I did, after letting the doctor know my concerns about this, that I was going to be really, really upset." Jane said the doctor kind of laughed, but not that much.
"Maybe that's why I haven't been feeling that well for the past month or so," Jane told me. "I thought maybe I was depressed, because I just didn't feel like doing anything, and I was always tired but also anxious at the same time, which didn't make any sense. I thought it was because of life stuff. Kind of funny that I was talking to my mother about staying healthy because of what had happened to Dad, and she told me that she had never worried about me or my sister. She was always concerned about my brothers, I guess because they are men, and my father was a man, and she didn't really think that my sister and I would be affected by my father's heart disease. I told her that heart disease killed more women than breast cancer did, and that since we had the same genetic makeup as our brothers, we had as good a chance as them of developing heart disease. 'Oh', she said, 'I never thought of it that way.' "
So, now Jane has been taking blood pressure medication for a couple of days. I talked to her this morning and I could hear a difference in her voice from just a few days ago. She said she feels so much better, like a load has been lifted off her shoulders, though she had no idea she was even carrying the load.
"It's so strange," said Jane. "I had just seen something on TV that said all women should have an EKG when they turn 40, and that women who have a history of heart disease in their family should always have annual checkups and make sure they alert their doctor to this history."
I've learned a lot from Jane's experience. So, I figured my friends and family could potentially learn a lot from it, too. Just because someone gives advice all of the time doesn't mean they always follow their Own advice. Sounds like Jane knows what she's talking about this time.