#FITFABFEB2019 Health & Wellness Wellness Wednesday

Do you have a hidden health problem? The importance of knowing your family medical history.

February 12, 2019
Healthy heart

I regard myself as a pretty fit and healthy person and I’m sure many of you who follow my blog would probably agree. I run 2 – 3 times a week, practice daily yoga and strength training.

I try to eat healthy most of the time and make sure I have my regular mammogram and colonoscopy screenings because of my family history with breast cancer and bowel cancer. Dad also had heart problems but my blood tests have always shown good cholesterol levels so I haven’t been concerned.

What I didn’t realise was that I have a small health problem developing quietly, which I only found by accident.

Towards the end of last year, a few times when I was running I could feel a tightness in my chest. It wasn’t a pain like ‘ouch’ more just like someone sitting on my chest, and it wasn’t there all the time. I thought it might have been my body telling me to slow down and recover more from running my second marathon a couple of months earlier.

The day that I had to stop running because my chest felt so tight, I knew that I needed to find out what it was.

A visit to the G.P. confirmed that I was healthy, it wasn’t asthma or a chest infection. He was stumped but as my father had had a couple of heart attacks in his 40s the G.P. decided we needed to investigate my problem further and take a look at my heart.

The starting point was to have a Coronary Calcium Score CT Scan. This scan shows whether the arteries are narrowed or blocked due to the build up of calcified plaque which can lead to Coronary Artery Disease (CAD).

When I went back for my results the G.P. explained that for a normal person the results would be acceptable BUT for someone of my fitness level a score of 66 was not acceptable. It should have been closer to zero.

Next step was to organize a stress test with a cardiologist which I booked for later in the week.

A visit to the Emergency Department

The pain felt worse the next day, so a trip to the emergency department showed that although my blood pressure was very high, the ECG was good and blood tests showed I had no signs of a heart attack. My lung capacity was 50% better than average for people in their 60s. My cholesterol was excellent.

Ok – no heart attack and no heart damage – tick! However, the doctor suggested I continue with the stress test.

I felt a little foolish rocking up to the E.D. and then getting the all clear. However the doctor advised that if anyone has any chest pain they should always go to emergency even if it turns out to be nothing more than indigestion.

Next step – A Stress Test and Echocardiogram

An Echo Stress Test determines how well your heart and blood vessels are working. You are hooked up to a an ECG machine and your heart rate and regularity are measured firstly ‘At Rest’ and then after walking or running on a treadmill. As I expected I blitzed the stress test and performed better than the average person my age. Another tick!

BUT and there is always a ‘but’ isn’t there!

The cardiologist explained that despite my fitness and my ‘normally more than acceptable’ cholesterol levels, I was still at risk of a future heart attack because of the calcium buildup. He explained that I was doing everything right to keep healthy but I couldn’t change my ‘genes’.

With a family history, despite my healthy lifestyle, the risks of heart attack are higher.

He couldn’t however, determine what the tightness was but it definitely wasn’t anything related to my heart.

Improving and maintaining a healthy heart.

So what do I do?

The cardiologist told me I can’t control my genes but I can make some changes to my lifestyle. He has suggested I:

  • Halve my already low cholesterol
  • Follow a more ‘mediterranean diet’ with more fish, less meat and lots of vegetables, legumes and nuts.
  • I take a very low dose of a statin to help lower my cholesterol
  • KEEP RUNNING which I’m happy to hear and make sure I get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily!

I will revisit him in 3 months time so fingers crossed I will be where he wants me to be.

What I learned from this experience

  • Don’t take your health for granted
  • If something doesn’t feel right get it check out sooner rather than later
  • Know your family medical history and make sure you know what tests and screenings you should be having. In my parents day, things like this weren’t really discussed and as both my parents died over 30 years ago I can’t ask them now.
  • Don’t assume because you are fit and healthy that you won’t experience health issues.

I never did determine what caused the original problem but it seems to have gone.

Do you have any tests you need to schedule?

This post is part of my #FitFabFeb2019 Series.

Fit Fab Feb 2019


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58 Comments

  • Reply Erica/Erika February 12, 2019 at 18:10

    A really interesting, informative post, Sue. You likely have made a difference to at least one of your followers by sharing your experience and you have likely prevented some serious consequences. I also think that because I am fit and healthy, I am immune to disease and illness. Thank you for reminding me that we can’t control our genes and we need to listen to our bodies.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 09:03

      I hope so Erica because I really did get an unexpected shock. You really don’t know what is lurking inside even if you do everything to keep fit and healthy, there is no guarantee. I hope my post will encourage others to find out their family medical history and have the necessary tests. Have a great week and thank you for stopping by to leave a comment. x

  • Reply Savoring Sixty February 12, 2019 at 21:44

    Great post! So glad you are okay! Sometimes it is easy to take good health for granted. Keeping regular checks on yourself can sometimes help prevent any sneak attacks! Take care!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 09:04

      Thank you! It was quite a surprise but at least I know now and am aware of what I need to do. It is easy to take good health for granted or think that because we keep fit and active we are immune to problems with our health. x

  • Reply Nancy Dobbins February 12, 2019 at 22:55

    Scary Sue…you can’t escape your genes, you are right, but you certainly ARE doing everything in your control to stay fit and healthy. Your doctor’s recommendations seem sensible…A Mediterranean diet is a good model of how to avoid meat and poultry and eat LOTS of veggies!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 09:06

      Hi Nancy, yes I don’t have a great gene pool as you would have seen but I can only try to be informed and do what I can to keep a check on the nasties that could occur because of my family medical history. Have a great week! xx

  • Reply Paul Isaac February 13, 2019 at 06:06

    Thanks for the reminder Sue. I turn 60 later this month and although I do try to keep fit my diet pretty much consists of eating and drinking whatever I want. I’m going to book in with my GP and also have a look at your Mediterranean diet suggestion and discuss it with my wife. Congratulations on your excellent test results and I hope you keep on sizzling!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 09:09

      Happy birthday for this month, Paul and the best is yet to come! I’m so pleased to hear you are making an appointment with your GP. We think we are invincible but sometimes like me there is something silent which we don’t know about. I hope to be Sizzling way into my 70s. Thanks for taking the time to comment and might see you on our next run!

  • Reply Mary Lou February 13, 2019 at 07:14

    You and I have had very similar experiences Sue! A recent trip to the ED, Nuclear Stress Test, Echocardiogram all found that I have a healthy heart structurally so they just did a readjustment of my BP meds. Same symptom you had ~ tightness in the neck/chest. I might have the Coronary Calcium Score CT Scan next though I’m over 70 so not sure yet. Keep doing what you’re doing and thanks for the different tips for going forward! I’ll be sharing on FB and Twitter for #MLSTL.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 09:10

      I was very surprised with my results and always thought I was doing everything I could to be fit and healthy. It can be quite scary can’t it, Mary Lou. I would recommend the Coronary Calcium Score CT Scan because that is where the problem showed up. Thanks for sharing and have a great week! x

  • Reply Natalie February 13, 2019 at 08:14

    So glad that you’re OK, Sue. It’s wise to have health check-ups as some of the tests show results that we cannot see with human eyes. If something doesn’t feel right, check it out, like you did. #MLSTL

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 09:11

      Yes, Natalie, better to have it checked out and be nothing than leave it go and then it is too late to do anything. x

  • Reply Min @ Write of the Middle February 13, 2019 at 09:47

    Well first of all I am glad you’re ok Sue! I’m also very glad that you don’t ignore things that are bothering you but rather get them seen to. We can lead active, healthy lives but we still need to get our health checks done, be aware of family histories, and get any niggles or worries seen to. I’m so glad you posted this Sue, as it might just make someone the little shake they need to go see a doctor about something that might have been on their mind for some time. You never know! xo

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 09:12

      Hi Min, I’ve had a great response to this post and a few people have commented that they are going to make an appointment with their doctor. It is so important to know our family medical history and be proactive about it. x

  • Reply Agnes Knowles February 13, 2019 at 09:48

    First of all, so happy you are healthy! A good reminder though that we can take nothing for granted and, as mother used to say, forewarned is forearmed. We really cannot assume anything, especially health-wise and especially as we get older. We are so lucky to have the health systems we do nowadays, let’s use them!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 12:25

      Hi Agnes, yes it is much better to be forewarned and that way we can be proactive rather than wait until perhaps it is too late. We have great health systems and much better than when my parents were ill. So many more tests and screenings available now. x

  • Reply Kim Duncan February 13, 2019 at 10:16

    Well THAT had to be scary! I, too, have a family history of breast cancer (mom) and heart disease (dad) so I have to be careful. Great advice, Sue. I’m so glad to hear you are well! #MLSTL

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 12:27

      It was unsettling Kim so I’m glad that I wasn’t stubborn and I went to the GP who got the ball rolling with tests. We still don’t know what caused the tightness in my chest but I have a healthy heart just not the ‘plumbing’ as the cardiologist told me. x

  • Reply Michele February 13, 2019 at 11:14

    I have no doubt you will continue to do all the good things to take care of yourself and avoid more serious problems. Those heart pains must have been frightening. My mother dies young of a heart attack, and I am paranoid about it. I know I need to get more regular checkups and do a better job of taking care of myself. You inspire me to do that.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 12:29

      Oh Michele I know what you mean by paranoid. I’ve lost my mother, father and brother to cancer all in their mid 60s and my sister is a cancer survivor. I’m the only one in my family who hasn’t had it so when I turned 60, although the age didn’t bother me, my family survival rate did. I’m pleased I’ve inspired you as it is something we can take for granted or just keep putting off rather than making it a priority. x

  • Reply Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au February 13, 2019 at 11:32

    Hi Sue – I was so relieved when you found there was nothing too sinister lurking in the background, but it’s still a worry isn’t it? I think genes and previous family history are the jokers in the pack and we just have to play our game around them and you’re doing all you can to make sure they don’t win. Ross found he has a really high cholesterol level too – genes and probably all the high fat milk + eggs of his childhood on a farm. He’s now deciding if statins are the way to go for him – his exercise level is really high and his eating is pretty good – so he’s in a similar boat to you. Glad you’re still going strong and can keep inspiring us with your running etc xx
    Thanks for co-hosting another great week of MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 12:30

      It is amazing that ‘fit’ people like Ross and I have these issues when others who do nothing don’t. Ross sounds in exactly the same boat as me – exercising regularly and eating well. I’m taking medication but I really don’t want to, I’ll see how I go when I visit the Cardiologist at the end of March. x

  • Reply Jennifer Jones February 13, 2019 at 13:49

    That moment st have been a worrying time for you Sue. Good to hear that there was no bad news. Great reminder for us all #MLSTL Shared

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 12:31

      Hi Jen, normally I would have not done anything but I just felt it could be something. It turns out the feeling itself wasn’t a problem but at least they found another problem which I otherwise would not have known about. Thank you for sharing xx

  • Reply Trisha Faye February 13, 2019 at 14:36

    So glad that so much is testing as healthy and that you’re being proactive in staying on top of what could use a little TLC. You’re an inspiration!
    Sharing for MLSTL

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 12:32

      Oh thank you Trisha, you are very kind and I feel good when I can share a story that will inspire others to take care of themselves. xx

  • Reply Denyse Whelan February 13, 2019 at 15:03

    Firstly, good on you for sharing.

    I know you “live” with the knowledge of your family health history and do your best to counter this.

    Unfortunately as you found out this health thing can ‘let us down’ even when we do all we can.

    I have had that ride in an ambulance aged around 63 because of unrelenting chest pain. The ER people found that as my pain had disappeared and they took bloods, that I had an attack of painful pancreatitis. It is and was awful. I have had another one since and knew what it was then so just saw my GP and she ran tests. Still scary particularly as my then gastro dr could not tell me why. For some years (cancer became my greater thing to deal with) I was in fear of every gut pain being that again. But no. Fortunately.

    Best wishes to you for your healthy practices and now insight into your body.

    Denyse #MLSTL

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 12:33

      We can only do what we can, can’t we Denyse – keep the tests and screenings up to date and live a healthy lifestyle. Then it is up to the gods isn’t it?

  • Reply Jan Wild February 13, 2019 at 16:42

    I am so sorry to hear that Sue, it must have been frightening for you. I have the high cholestorol gene and my levels are borderline despite exercising and a healthy diet. I am really not keen on taking statins so I am continuing to use natural remedies and good behavioural patterns to stave off that possibility. I also have high blood pressure but had a really good reading today at my GP (amazing because I get white coat) so things seem to be trending in the right direction. Pinning this

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 12:37

      Thanks Jan it was a bit scary I have to admit. My cholesterol is good at 2.4 but because of my family history the cardiologist wants it a 1.2! I’m not keen on medication but have started a low dose and see how it goes. So good to hear about your BP reading at the GP that is a positive and you work out with pilates, gym and walking so you are doing all you can. Have a beautiful day and thanks for pinning. x

  • Reply Johanna Castro February 13, 2019 at 18:06

    Such an informative post Sue and I think probably more scary than you let on. I have the high cholestorol gene too and despite a healthy lifestyle and diet it won’t go down. Shall watch on with interest at how you continue to tackle your hereditary problem, as I should probably be doing the same thing. #MLSTL Pinned and shared.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 12:50

      Hi Jo it was pretty scary and I’m glad I actually went to get it checked out instead of brushing it off. The High cholesterol gene seems very common from some of the comments I’ve received and it is hard when it is genetic because although you exercise and eat healthy the genes just won’t co-operate! Thanks for sharing and have a lovely day xx

  • Reply Debbie February 13, 2019 at 20:39

    Thanks for sharing your experiences Sue, I know it must have been a real worry for you and am so glad you are on the right track! You are wise to remind us to be aware of these histories! Sharing for #mlstl

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 12:52

      Hi Deb, yes I have to admit it was pretty scary at the time but at least I was thoroughly checked out with all the tests. I haven’t had that many tests all at once before – I was living at the hospital 🙂

  • Reply Christie Hawkes February 13, 2019 at 23:01

    I’m so glad you take your health seriously, Sue, and that your heart and lungs are healthy. I had a similar experience, but it was a feeling of my heart beating really hard sporadically even when I was at rest. It’s hard to describe, but it felt like physical panic, but without the mental aspect of fear–except about what was happening with my heart. Anyway, I saw a cardiologist who had me wear a monitor for 48 hours. When that showed I did have some irregularity, I did the echo stress test followed by an MRI of my heart. Turns out my heart is healthy (a result at least in part from all the healthy eating and physical activity), but I do have premature atrial contractions (PAC). The doctor assured me they are not dangerous and I should continue with my running and other physical activity. My grandfather died of heart problems, but otherwise my family history is clear in that department. There is high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes–both related to lifestyle choices. I think that’s why I take my health so seriously. I’ve seen what not doing so can lead to. Thanks, as always, for encouraging health and fitness. #FitFabFeb #MLSTL

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 12:57

      Hi Christie, I try to keep on top of the cancer testing but hadn’t really given thought to my heart as my cholesterol has always been good but obviously not good enough for the cardiologist. We can only share our stories and hope it helps others. You must have been frightened with your experience? My cardiologist said I should not stop running so I was happy to hear that. Surprisingly the feeling I was experiencing went away as quickly as it came. My daughter thinks it might have been anxiety. Have a great day and thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts. xx

  • Reply Nancy Dobbins February 13, 2019 at 23:13

    Hi Sue, Just visiting again to share from #MLSTL…read this post again, so important to take our body’s messages seriously and listen to it.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 12:59

      Thank you Nancy for visiting and sharing, I appreciate your support of the blog. Have a fabulous day! xx

  • Reply Natalie February 14, 2019 at 02:00

    Hi Sue – Just visiting again to thank you for linking up on Wellness Wednesday this month. Next Wellness Wednesday link up will be on March 13 with optional prompt Indoor or Outdoor Fitness. Have a great day!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 13:02

      Thanks Natalie, I’ll be over to visit Wellness Wednesday and look forward to reading everyone’s contribution. x

  • Reply Pat February 14, 2019 at 03:12

    Sue, So glad you shared this because everyone should know their bodies and respond to the signs that something might be wrong. You are living a healthy lifestyle and still heeded that message … a great role model! I have joked (bad joke perhaps) that I didn’t inherit a gene-pool but rather a cess-pool. In close family (parents, siblings, aunts, uncles) there is …. multiple types of cancer, multiple types of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, thyroid issues, and osteoporosis. So yes, I do all the necessary screenings, and if something feels/looks wrong, I get it checked. (Hence, my cancer was Stage1.) I push same on hubby, and he’s been in ER twice with “possible heart attack” symptoms. Neither was, but I’m still happy we had things checked out thoroughly (one was medication ending readjustment and other was a severe allergy reaction!). So glad to know your still doing fine… and encouraged to keep running! Lifestyle choices can mitigate a lot of genetics…not all, but a lot. Visiting from #MLSTL

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 13:06

      Hi Pat I think we know when something is really wrong don’t we? Our bodies tell us but of course many of us don’t listen. My husband had a triple by-pass 18 years ago and the doctors always stressed that if anyone felt chest pain they would prefer them to come into the ED and be told it was indigestion than not come it and have a heart attack. I’ve always kept that in mind. We can only try can’t we? Have a great week and thanks for supporting #MLSTL xx

  • Reply Bethany @ Happily Loco February 14, 2019 at 06:51

    I hear you with the family history! Heart issues, diabetes, COPD, and a host of other problems run in my family. I have really focused on lifestyle (and keeping up with my bloodwork), in the hopes of warding them off!

    #mlstl

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 13:07

      We can only try can’t we Bethany. It is hard when family history is stacked against you but you seem to be on top of things and be make regular testing a priority. Have a beautiful day and thanks for stopping by x

  • Reply Shannon @ Skip to My Life February 14, 2019 at 08:52

    This is great advise! Also a good reminder to talk to living relatives and siblings about health history.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 14, 2019 at 12:21

      Hello Shannon and welcome! Yes, my parents died over 30 years ago and health wasn’t talked about much. It is so important to know about any genetic dispositions etc so we can make sure we have screenings and test and be proactive. Thanks for dropping by and have a beautiful day. x

  • Reply Donna February 15, 2019 at 00:54

    I’m so glad that you are okay, Sue. The beginning of this post had me very worried.
    Thank you for sharing this, and your takeaways. This is very important information for each of us to remember and to follow.
    Once again your blog provides an incredible service.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 18, 2019 at 08:57

      Thanks Donna, I am fine now although at the time it was a little scary. I think sharing experiences like this can prompt others into action. Being fit and healthy is no guarantee although of course it does help doesn’t it? Have a great week and I loved your holiday photos. xx

  • Reply Kathy Marris February 15, 2019 at 12:25

    Oh wow Sue! I imagine that this was a little scary, but great to hear that you’re all in the clear. Yes I have a family history of hypertension and heart disease so I like to keep a check on my blood pressure and cholesterol. However you’ve reminded me that I need to have these things checked soon as I haven’t had a checkup in a while. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 18, 2019 at 09:04

      Hi Kathy, yes it wasn’t pleasant but it was good to have the tests and know that for the most part, my heart is healthy and it is nothing that can’t be monitored and controlled. I’m so pleased the post has prompted you to make an appointment because we can keep putting things off can’t we? have a great week and so pleased to have you back in the blogging world. xx

  • Reply Candi Randolph February 15, 2019 at 23:57

    So glad you are okay, Sue, and you have a plan going forward for your health. And you are right, even though we seem to take good care of ourselves it is still no guarantee for the future! And I agree that a trip to the emergency room is much better than waiting it out and taking the chance that something really bad happens! Great post and gets us all thinking.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 18, 2019 at 09:10

      Thank you Candy it was a wake up call that even though I’m fit I might not be as healthy as I thought. Have a great week and I’m looking forward to your new course. x

  • Reply Molly February 17, 2019 at 09:39

    Sue… you are an encouragement. And yet, I am still fearful.
    I am not fond of doctors (LONG history here). I did go for regular pregnancy checks because I was responsible for the baby. But as for my personal health… I ignore all checkups. For years the excuse was lack of insurance. Now the excuse is fear. I feel healthy… I take relatively good care of myself. Why stress me out?

    I’m slowly coming to terms with this immature mindset. I’m embarrassed… ashamed… but nevertheless, paralyzed to follow through with annual check-ups. I hope to overcome the resistance in 2019 and make a well-check appointment (that will more than likely include a mammogram … colonoscopy… and bone density test).

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 18, 2019 at 09:02

      Hi Molly thank you for your lovely words and if I can encourage others to be healthy and happy then I feel satisfied. You really need to try to overcome your fear, which I know many people have, because as we age, if we have any family medical history we need to start having those important screenings and testings. Let me know if I can help in anyway because it really is important to have these check ups. xx

  • Reply Marya Mom Mesa February 20, 2019 at 00:14

    This is a really important post about heart health & prevention. Thanks for writing it!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric February 21, 2019 at 08:11

      Hi Marya it was certainly unexpected but at least I know now and I can keep it all under control. x

  • Reply Janet Mary Cobb February 28, 2019 at 13:58

    Sue – glad you are feeling better. As you mention – we can only do what we can do – we have no control over our gene pool. In my early 40s, I experienced some chest tightness, shortness of breath, etc. The doctor wanted to chalk it up to ‘stress and anxiety’ but did a series of tests. Each test led to some possible ‘serious’ issue and a further test. Long story short, nothing really serious was happening – but I had severely low levels of iron stores. Not anemia but the storage levels. Upping my iron intake resolved the issue. Crisis averted. I think sharing our stories is so important to helping everyone be well. Thanks for sharing yours!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 3, 2019 at 16:03

      Hi Janet, I’m so pleased to hear that a reason was found for your issue but it is worrying at the time isn’t it? My issue resolved itself but as I wrote the tests I had discovered an underlying condition which I would probably never have known about. Knowing our Family History and discussing with our children is very important. x

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