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Aortic Dissection and Raynauds Phenomena

RAJABLOGG.com - First, let me apologize for the absurdly long title to this post.
Second, seems like so many of my aortic support group friends end up in the ER during the winter months.

Cold is not a friend to me so I can understand.  I've always dreaded January and February and the fast moving weather fronts that drastically change barometric pressure and urge my mechanical heart valve to go boom, boom, boom twenty four hours a day.

In fact, I ended up in the ER last year with a horrible case of bigeminy once ((bigeminy is not being married to two Gemini) rather bigeminy is where the heart starts beating out of rhythm - more specifically two beats for each normal one beat) and then another ER trip for a serious bleeding hematoma the second time.

I was exceedingly happy to move to southwest Florida this past summer with the grand anticipation of fewer winter cold weather challenges for my body.  I like warm.  I was raised in hot Miami.

But this afternoon I want to blog about a couple of issues, including Raynauds Syndrome, Creative Challenge Solving, this low fat diet I am on and something else which I have now forgotten what the topic concerned.  Thank you Pumphead Syndrome forgetfulness.

My cardiologist knew what Raynauds was when I told him several years ago about my suspicions and he prescribed Amlodipine (5 mg) daily to help with the symptoms.

If you develop cold hands, fingers or feet when the temperature drops ( below 60 F for me) a certain level then you may ask your M.D. about Raynauds.  In severe cases Raynauds manifests as white or blue extremities with painfully numb physical symptoms.

Like aortic dissections and aneurysms I had no idea what Raynauds was about until the aftermath of my two open heart surgeries.

Raynauds, in my opinion, is responsible for many winter and cold weather season cases of sky high blood pressure and erratic, speedy heart beats.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, Raynauds can be caused by beta-blocker use as well as from cold weather.

When I experience a Raynauds attack, my peripheral blood vessels constrict, causing my heart to pump harder and harder in a futile attempt to circulate blood through my hands and feet.  Raynauds induced periphery vessel constriction raises my blood pressure to scary levels and my valve booming booms even louder than normal booming.

All this invokes a stress response in my body compounding the already intense circulatory irregularities, feeding the Raynauds.

What causes Raynauds?  For me an attack is brought on with exposure to cold air.  I can't walk into a Costco open veggie freezer without fear of my fingers turning blue, heart racing and blood pressure skyrocketing.

Staying warm helps prevent Raynauds for me.  Amlodipine too is supposed to dilate my peripheral vessels and does help somewhat but with a cost.  Amlodipine tends to encourage arrhythmias and heart palpations in my chest as well as water retention.

And so I wonder how many of my aortic dissection survivor friends out there are experiencing Raynauds symptoms without knowing what to call the syndrome.

Practicing biofeedback techniques, avoiding stress, knowing when to pull on gloves, wearing warm socks and the silk long sleeve tee my Mom sent me, or seeking out the sun on cold days helps me avoid the ER.  I'd encourage others to ask their primary care physicians or cardiologists about Raynauds also, especially those whose fingers and feet get really cold during to early months of the new year.  It might assign a name to an issue and hopefully provide some insight into cold weather heart complications.

Enough said about Raynauds and winter month ER visits.  My next bit of rambling involves the low fat diet I am on.

OK, up front I know I am doing a good thing by cutting out all processed foods.  I will be so much healthier for doing so.

But eliminating processed foods from my diet is so depressing!

Yes I feel better physically and have quiet a bit more energy now.  Yes, I have lost over twenty pounds since before thanksgiving and my last really bad gallbladder episode.  Yes, I am avoiding gallbladder surgery for the immediate future.

But all the comfort foods I used to run to are now off limits.  No more salt and cracked pepper kettle cooked chips when I am feeling down in the dumps about health issues or any other issues.   No more deliciously distracting Publix sub sandwiches or crispy breaded chicken tenders to banish the blues.

Now I turn to sliced apples or peel a tangerine.

O.K. I know this is a good move.  But I am having a really hard time with giving up processed foods!  I want a non-nitrite organic hotdog.  I want a slab of brie cheese on a crunchy cracker!  I want something salty and oily and crunchy and satiating!  I don't want a raw carrot.

But I am eating mostly veggies and non-fat foods.

As I mentioned in my last blog, I now introduce myself with "Hi, I am Kevin and I am a vegan".

But today I almost had a breakdown in Publix and complained to Judy afterwards that I was so disappointed in life.  I think I may have hurt her feelings and should have been more specific about my otherwise global complaint.

Walking into Publix to buy a package of chicken thighs for her and Ruairi's Sunday dinner, I realized that in my present state of dysfunctional gallbladder health I could not eat ninety nine percent of the beautiful packaged processed food items lining the grocery store shelves.  Probably never again either.

This is a first world problem I told her.  I know I am so much better off sticking with non-processed foods and long term I will be happy with my hopefully soon to be six pack abs (there better be a pay off for the non-fat diet).  I know I should be happy and grateful with the abundance here of fresh veggies and more fresh veggies.

But those colorful bags and bottles and cans and packages of machine compiled food substances with all the long scientifically named additive and flavor compounds were all calling my name.  Actually they were screaming. "Kevin, why aren't you buying us anymore!"  The screaming peaked when I walked by the hummus cooler.

After much thought and a little discussion this afternoon I realize I am addicted to processed foods.  I've been treating those salty, oily, crispy, yummy processed foods as self medication to  mask the symptoms of PTSD from two open heart surgeries, depression, physical pain and chronic fatigue.  When I felt bad I'd head for a brie or hand full of macadamia nut pick me ups.

No I won't ever eat them again.  I may dream about a juicy Hebrew National dog but none shall pass my lips.  I know too well the pain gallbladders can cause.  And since my artificial valve chops up my red blood cells causing a chain reaction with my liver and more gallstones, I will always be stuck with the problem.

Until I have my gallbladder removed.

But therein lies the real problem.  My surgeon says I will be in the hospital for a week minimum because I am on warfarin and then there is the chance of a nicked liver and bleeding and ICU and you get the picture.

Perhaps sticking with a non-fat, non-gallbladder contracting causation diet is best.

This morning in church Rev. Allison spoke about creative problem solving, how we can create the patchwork quilt of our lives in any pattern we choose given the circumstances we are dealt with.

I do fully understand I can take the dissected aorta I am living with and the stoned gallbladder I am stuck with and either make the best of it all or just "roll" over.

Darn it, rolls, especially buttered rolls would be so good right now.  Better yet if I stuck a Hebrew National dog in one and made pigs in a blanket.

Dissection life is a trip!
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