This week I had the privilege of meeting with Dr Arnold Ng – a Cardiologist at Princess Alexandra Hospital. Now I should make it clear from the beginning, unless you are laying in hospital with a suspected heart attack, you're not going to start your routine annual health check with a visit to the Cardiologist.
In fact, I learned that if I had started with my GP like I'm supposed to, I probably wouldn't have needed a consultation with a Cardiologist at all… yet.
See, despite my concerns about family history - I don't need to worry unless one of my direct relatives (dad, uncles etc.) have had heart troubles from a young age. It was also reassuring to have a doctor refer to me as 'young'; even though I feel every last day of my 32 years, it seems that 'young' in cardiology terms means that the 'likelihood of heart disease is low, but not impossible' (a heart attack at my age would be considered unusual). So there you go, I'm young.
I'm also 'asymptomatic' for any heart problems. In other words, even though I was a bit paranoid about my family history, I don't have any complaints myself. So even though climbing stairs might be harder than when I was fit, I can still climb a set without desperately needing a rest or experiencing chest discomfort that is suggestive of angina (where blood flow to the heart is restricted.)
I did learn something interesting about myself on my visit to Dr Arnold - even though under normal circumstances I wouldn't be seeing a cardiologist, Dr Arnold was kind enough to demonstrate a few basic tests on me just to demonstrate what might happen in more advanced consults. We had a look at my heart through an echocardiogram (think of it as an ultrasound, but instead of looking for at a baby it's looking at your heart) and discovered I have a very slight leak in one of my heart valves on the right side. Dr Arnold went on to explain that it's not an issue, up to 30% of people would have a slight leak on the right sided valves and would usually never have a reason to worry, and it's an absolute credit to Dr Arnold that he can tell me something like that without sending me into a sweaty panic. If I had found that out from Google, I would be beside myself.
But it's not all good news, the fact is I'm still overweight and not getting enough exercise - two contributing factors to heart problems later in life.
In fact, Dr Arnold dropped a term on me that has been haunting me for days - CENTRAL OBESITY - or in women's magazine terms, I'm shaped like an apple. A quick visit to Dr Google on my phone is enough to tell me that I need to take some bites out of this apple, and the longer I leave it, the harder it gets.