By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
A nurse delivered me a surprise recently. It was about my heart, the last thing I expected.
Heart and emotions are connected. My heart emotions are great—always full of full of empathy, generosity, gratitude, and openness. But my physical heart is a concern. It has a murmur, and I was born with it.
Years ago, my dentist used to tell me to take two aspirin before any dental appointment just in case the procedure didn’t go well.
“It could make your heart bleed, you don’t want that to happen,” he said.
In the past few years, I changed dentists, and I forgot about the murmur. Then, my health insurance company sent a nurse to do a house call for an overall health checkup.
I guess it’s part of having Medicare.
It was a typical procedure with questions like, “Have you fallen recently? Do you have to go to the bathroom a lot at night? Do you have trouble hearing? Do you have hearing aids? Do you have ringing in your ears? Do you have memory problems? Do you exercise?”
In half an hour, I received a great health report card. He gave me four “Good Jobs” at the end of his visit. The rating was for measurement of blood pressure, body mass index, circulation screening of the left and right foot to detect any vascular diseases, and heart rate. I wasn’t surprised at the result as I just had my annual physical check-up with my family doctor last March. The result was just as fabulous.
“Do you have any pain (anywhere in your body)?” he asked.
I knocked on the wooden table top as my response to show that I had none. I am fortunate. Many seniors experience all kinds of pain, from arthritis to muscle pain, foot to joint pain, finger to back pain, headaches to chest pain. I had foot and back pain three years ago. After a couple of sessions with a physical therapist and a diligent exercise program, the pain vanished before the pandemic.
When we were almost done, he asked casually, “How’s your heart?”
“I have a murmur in my heart,” I told him. “I was born with it.” My two sons have inherited my heart condition.
He got up from his chair, walked towards me, and placed his stethoscope on my shoulder.
In seconds, he responded, ”I didn’t hear anything. The murmur is gone.“
“What!” I had carried that “murmur” in my heart for as long as I can remember. Even without volunteering the information, doctors had been telling me in my 40s and 50s that I had a murmur in my heart. My family doctor never told me that the murmur had disappeared.
“The ‘murmur’ is the sound of blood flowing,” according to webmd.com. “It may be passing through an abnormal heart valve, for instance. Or it may be that a condition makes your heart beat faster and forces your heart to handle more blood quicker than normal.”
Heart murmurs can have negative consequences if someone is overweight or has other health issues. Or if the person is being stressed constantly, it will impact his or her heart.
Now, my heart health is in great shape. Wow, that calls for a celebration. I am curious.
“How and why did it happen?“
How it happened
All I can say is, 19 months after the pandemic, I have been taking good care of myself.
With fewer commitments, my stress level is definitely down. What I learned all these months is not to over-commit. I have been sleeping much better compared to pre-COVID. My diet is healthy. Exercise is part of my daily routine.
The lesson is, if you take care of your health, you may be able to change some of your negative hereditary physical attributes.
Never did I expect that murmur in my heart to be eliminated completely. The news was like walking in a rose garden, unexpectedly discovering a beautiful blooming species, which I have been planting during the last 19 months.
What also contributes to my overall health is, I didn’t just take wonderful care of myself, I have been studying all kinds of topics about health, including nutrition and diseases.
The difference between knowing and doing
Most people are aware of what it takes to maintain their health. But how many really stick to a healthy lifestyle?
Temptation hits us all the time. I constantly hear people say, “How can I refuse a free trip (even when I am exhausted and should rest)? Free drinks (even when you are almost drunk)? Free ice cream (even when you are overweight)?”
And the challenge is you have to stick to healthy routines not just once in a while, but every single day. The longer you adhere to your healthy routine, the less you are likely to go astray from your healthy practice.
What happens is, you feel so wonderful mentally and physically that you just don’t want to go back to your bad and old habits. It’s no fun to get sick especially if you get COVID these days. The side effects of COVID are extremely damaging not only to your overall health, but can cause you specific life-long health problems from your brain to your feet.
My friend, who is over 95 years old, has a point.
“If you feel something’s wrong, even if it’s a small thing, you should check it out with your doctor immediately.”
I don’t necessarily go to see a doctor every time I feel “yucky.” However, I would instantly take a few vitamin Cs and rest. Usually, it works. If it doesn’t, I Google my symptoms or call my doctor.
A purpose during a pandemic
A friend said he changed his mind about retirement after the pandemic.
“If I retire, I won’t be able to find something to do.”
Another friend who retired last year said, “I made the mistake of retiring too early.”
Some have retired much earlier than 65 years old with travel in mind. With COVID, travel is not so feasible. Now, they are bored.
Some have postponed retirement due to COVID. My 70-year-old staff member said she decided against retirement. She appreciates that she can have a purpose working for the Seattle Chinese Post.
My husband and I are happy that we can still work during the pandemic and keep our employees employed. The Seattle Chinese Post team met in the office to discuss content changes for the first time since our office was closed in March 2020. Our reunion was held in September. Remote work has not affected the quality of Northwest Asian Weekly and Chinese Post at all. Everyone looked relaxed. Their well-being, contentment to work at home, and hard work inspired me not to reopen our office. We made the right decision to close our office then. And we will continue to keep our office closed for now.
This affirmation lifted me up. Our production process and successful teamwork have bound us closer as a team even though we don’t see each other face to face. No wonder my heart health has excelled.
In the midst of surviving during these challenging times, discipline has not only grown in my heart, but ingrained in my brain. When our heart and brain are in sync with each other, they can support us to live better, happier, and peacefully.
Even in the worst circumstances, each of us has received blessings, whether you acknowledge it or not. What’s the best gift you’ve received since the pandemic?
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.