Have you ever had to make an unexpected U-turn?
About a year ago, I was driving to a meeting at Hidden Villa, a local organic ranch where I was supposed to do a children's program on chocolate. At a traffic light, I could feel my heart swell and pound out a few heavy heart beats that didn't feel all that regular. My left arm tingled a bit, although that could have been because I was resting it wrong on the car door.
Had this been the first time, I would have been surprised and perhaps concerned, but it would not have stopped me from going on to my destination.
But it wasn't.
I'd been experiencing these "palpitations," or strange heart rhythms, for a while, and had spent a few nights unable to sleep because of them. This time it was stronger and lasted longer. Hidden Villa was a bit out there, not hundreds of miles away from civilization but definitely out of cell phone range and nowhere near a hospital.
Before the light changed, I made a decision.
I made a U-turn and drove straight to urgent care. Not speeding, not frantic (don't need to stress out the heart any more at this point!), but yes, as fast as I could. Got there, got admitted immediately, got plugged in.
Nothing out of the ordinary, it turned out, but the doctor did tell me to stop eating chocolate for a while. The irony! How was I supposed to do a kids' program on chocolate if I had to abstain from the stuff?
"Of course," I said to the doctor. "Like hell," I thought privately.
Woman's intuition told me it wasn't the chocolate. I eat only dark, 80% unadulterated chocolate, and that's the good beneficial stuff.
It did occur to me to be grateful I hadn't dropped dead of a heart attack in the middle of traffic. None too convenient, that would have been.
When our body whispers, we tend not to notice. But it when it calls out loud and clear, we better sit up and listen. I took this symptom, condition, whatever it was, seriously. Way I look at it, I love life, I have a lot of books to write and even more places to see, but above all that, far above all that, I'm a mom. If that's not a reason to stay healthy for the long-term, I don't know what is.
Several hours of online research later, I was more confused than ever. One thing seemed to be sure: in women, cardiac arrest and heart issues in general present differently than in men. It could be neck pain, irregular bowels, a tight jaw, a headache... in other words, you could be having a mild heart attack and not even know it. Fun, n'est-ce pas?
But one thing struck me, something that was rarely mentioned in the articles I read: dehydration. I'm known to power on for hours in intense concentration without so much as a sip of water—or any liquid for that matter. Do that for a few years, add on the stress of running a business and running after a toddler, and you start to run up debt on your body.
Then there are the electrolytes. To function properly, the heart needs these guys, and it needs them in a healthy balance. Sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium. And potassium imbalances are apparently the most common cardiac arrhythmias related to electrolytes. Hmm. Banana-tomato smoothie anyone?
So I did the painfully obvious thing, and the one most immediately within my control: drinking more fluids throughout the day and eating more stuff with these electrolytes in them. Coconut water became a daily staple.
No more palpitations.
The other happy ending is, of course, that I did do my "Story of Chocolate" program at Hidden Villa (the photo up top is from that event) and the kids had a blast.
And I'm still eating dark chocolate.