Archive for the ‘Walking’ Category

Walking shoes, Liquid Plum’r, and Cholesterol

November 22, 2010

There was a pretty big announcement at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2010 meetings last week: the new drug Anacetrapib is very good at raising “Good” cholesterol (HDL) while at the same time lowering “Bad” cholesterol (LDL) with very little side effects!

Why is this important? (Part 1): Here’s a good way to remember the difference: HDL is Happy Cholesterol and LDL is Lousy Cholesterol. Lousy Cholesterol gunks up your blood vessels and causes blockages. Blocked arteries are official, certified BAD THINGS. Happy Cholesterol, on the other hand, eats Lousy Cholesterol and then drops it off in the liver, where it is processed out of the body.

Why is this important? (Part 2): Drugs don’t always work like you think they will. A few years ago there was a big clinical trial for a new drug that would also raise your HDL while lowering your LDL. Suddenly the trial was cancelled… a significant percentage of the trial participants suffered from high blood pressure and/or heart attacks. Some of them actually died.


So there was a lot of excitement when anacetrapib came through the clinical trial with acceptable results. Dr. John M. has a good post on the new drug, including how it is more like Liquid Plum’r. Or maybe Pac-Man.

We’re still a long way from this drug going to market, the next step is another clinical trial involving 30,000 people. But in a few years it will be available – and someone will promote it as “an alternative to exercise.”

In the words of the great philosopher, Mr. Bruce Hornsby, “…don’t you believe them.” A pill can not replace exercise, no matter how much LDL it gets rid of. Your heart and lungs are muscles – If you push them just a little past their optimal range of use on a regular basis, they’ll get stronger. If you don’t – if you sit on the couch and take your pill – they’ll slowly wear out. It’s a rule of life; you can’t stop it. We all age, but some of us do what we can to slow it down.

The new drug won’t be cheap. New drugs never are, there is too much Research and Development funding sunk into it. No one knows what the price will be yet, so let’s make a guess. The new anticoagulation drug Dabigatran will probably cost about $240 per month. That’s not taking into account any insurance plan you may use, but if you walked up to the pharmacy counter with your prescription and paid cash.

Using this as our estimate, a one year supply of Dabigatran would cost $2,800 per year. You can figure that Anacetrapib’s price will probably be somewhere in that range.

But one pair of good walking shoes will cost you $85. Shoot, let’s splurge a bit and get one of the more expensive brands. That will cost us $130. If we just use them for our high intensity walks, they’ll last a while. If we use them as our everyday shoes, we may need a new pair in a year. Cost of drug: $2,800 per year. Cost of shoes: possibly $260 per year, more likely to be less.

Exercise is cheaper than drugs – and a lot more fun!

Got what you need?

November 2, 2010

They had two walking routes at the Atlanta Heart Walk: a 6 Kilometer (3.7 mile) route and a 1 mile “Survivor’s Walk”. Several times, one of the other Adult CHDers stated that she was going on the Survivor’s Walk. Then suddenly she was looking for Dr. McConnell. “What would you think if I tried the long walk?”

“Do you feel up to it?” he asked.

She nodded. “I’ll do the three and a half mile walk if you’ll walk it with me.”

“I’m game,” Dr. McConnell said, and they moved off to the area where people were gathering for the longer walk.

I left not long after the walkers started – it was cold, and I am Cyanotic. A couple of my friends had the telltale blue tinge, and I am sure I resembled a grape! With me changing colors and shivering in my shoes, and 60% of the attendees out on the Walk, it seemed the perfect time to take off. But I had to laugh at the “preparations” we make before going on a 3.5 mile hike:

Got your water bottle? Check!

Wearing comfortable shoes? Check!

Got your Cardiologist? CHECK!

Epilogue: The walk went really well, and no one – Heart Warrior or doctor – suffered any ill effects!

2010 Atlanta Heart Walk: The big kids!

October 31, 2010

Here’s a few of the Adults with Congenital Heart Defects at the 2010 Atlanta Heart Walk! All of us are patients at Emory University Hospital’s Adult Congenital Cardiology program! (Add one to the total – I’m holding the camera!)

And these are only a few – I filmed this not long after the event officially started and things began to pick up. I think that in total, 30 to 40 Adult CHDer’s were there! An entire group came storming in together (reminded me of the US Calvary coming to the rescue!) and I quickly lost count.

15,000 people

October 29, 2010

“Glad to be here, happy to be alive.” – End of the Line, The Traveling Wilburys

15,000 people have registered for the Atlanta Heart Walk! Wow!

And my original plan was to just take a quick flight down to Atlanta. I’m glad I didn’t – not with supicious packages being found on various aircraft today. For those of you who may not know, Atlanta is home of the busiest airport in the world. I can’t imagine how crazy it is out at the airport right now.

Dreams of a Funky Heart

October 26, 2010

Beginning to get things together for the trip to Atlanta. The weather is predicted to be a low of 39 Friday night (Brrr!) with a high of 70. (No, I still do not like cold weather!)

And yes, I am smart enough to realize this is an American Heart Association event, and I do understand that the Heart Association does not support Heart Defect causes very well. That’s not the point. Emory University Hospital is a major sponsor and has entered a team; my Adult Congenital Cardiology group is based at Emory and they have entered a “mini-team”! We’ll have bandannas to mark us as CHD survivors, parents, and healthcare professionals. We’ll be well represented!

And I signed up for a Survivor’s cap, so I’ll have another hat to add to my collection. That may not be a good thing, I already have more hats than I have heads to wear them on. That will just thrill Momma!

It’s not about the hat, or the walk, which group I belong to, or even who is sponsoring it. It’s really about going and participating and being counted. Because when I was a little fella, I grew up thinking that there were very, very few kids around with a broken heart. The American Heart Association (back in the days when they were the only resource for any information on the heart) published a book titled When your Child has a Heart Defect. They only listed TEN different defects – I was too young then to realize that they had grouped several of them together. All of the defects of the blood vessels were grouped together, and the structural defects were grouped into Right Atrium Defects and Right Ventricle Defects. Add to that fact that there was very little known about left-sided heart defects in the early 1970’s, and as a result not many defects were covered. So the way I understood it, there were only ten different defects… there couldn’t be that many people who had one.

That “logic” made sense to me back then. So maybe by going, some Cardiac Kid can see me, and all the other adults living with broken hearts, and realize there are more out there than he/she knew about. And perhaps they will realize that they can beat that broken heart.

A Funky Heart can dream, can’t he?

South Bound and Down!

October 25, 2010

To the tune of East Bound and Down by Jerry Reed:


South bound and down, loaded up and truckin’
We gonna do what they say can’t be done
We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there
We’re South bound, come and join the fun!

Now keep your foot hard on the pedal, son never mind them brakes
Let it all hang out ’cause we’ve got a walk to make
We were summoned to Atlanta, where Heart Warriors will gather
And we’ll be there no matter what it takes!

South bound and down, loaded up and truckin’
We gonna do what they say can’t be done
We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there
We’re South bound, come and join the fun!

Heart defects have too much power, it affects five kids an hour
And it ain’t gonna rest until we fail
So we gotta dodge it, we gotta duck it
We gotta do our part to stop it
So put those walking shoes on and give it hell!

South bound and down, loaded up and truckin’
We gonna do what they say can’t be done
We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there
We’re South bound, come and join the fun!



8:00 AM October 30, 2010

Turner Field

Atlanta, Georgia

Casual Fan

October 15, 2010

Certainly you’ve heard the big news – the University of South Carolina beat the number 1 football team in the nation,  the University of Alabama. Boy, it was something to see! I would have loved to have been there, but I am a “casual fan”.

Now I consider myself a pretty loyal Gamecock supporter, but 1) I am not a Student; 2) I don’t give a ton of money to the Gamecock Club; so the athletics department considers me a Casual Fan. And like most venues, the Casual Fan doesn’t qualify for Premium Seating Options (a fancy way of saying “Good seats”).  Sit in the student section? Nope! Take the elevator to the skyboxes or sit close to the field? Surely you jest. Casual fans get the leftovers. But there are 80,000 seats in Williams Brice Stadium – lots of leftovers! And even with my heart defect I am mobile, so I don’t sit in the Handicapped section. Someone else may need that space.

You still have to think ahead, because with 80,000 people trying to get to the same place, not everyone can park close. Usually the closer you can park, the more money you contributed. So a guy like me might as well plan to leave early, because I can’t get there five minutes before game time. Sprinting to my seat just doesn’t work for me – especially if I have a seat in the  upper deck. The advantage to getting there early, of course, is that you get to take your time, look around, and if you are lucky, bump into a friend who invites you over to a tailgate party!

But then you have to hike the steps to your seat – and not at your own pace anymore. Steps and I do not get along well, I need to take it slow and easy and rest occasionally. That’s really hard to do with a group of fans behind you, all anxious to get to their seats. (Yeah, I’m the slowpoke that’s holding up progress!) And if my seat is high enough, I ain’t coming down until the game is over. No concession stand trip, because the fan who walks down must walk back up. Once is enough for me!

I’ve sat in some high seats at times. A friend and I went to an Atlanta Braves baseball game in the early 1990’s. That was before my stroke and I could handle steps better back then, and we had very high seats. The game announcer told us that Steve Avery was the Braves’ pitcher that night, but we weren’t sure – this little guy about half an inch tall walked out to the mound! He was a very good pitcher, but we couldn’t tell you if it was actually Steve Avery or not.

I had two sets of tickets to an opening round baseball game at the 1996 Olympics – one pair was low on the field, the others were very high. I kept the low seats and gave the higher seats to a friend and her boyfriend. Since we never saw each other at the game, I called her later and asked if they had made it.

“We were there! It was great, thank you again!”

Where were you two sitting? I asked.

“We were in the very top row! I think we were two rows above Jesus!” (Which team was He pulling for? I thought, but didn’t ask.)

Weather can also be a factor. It can get cold in South Carolina – and I’m cold natured. When I get cold, I can’t feel my fingers and toes. Then I can feel them again – they hurt! And until I get warm, I can’t move them without pain. My dad and I were able to go the 1981 South Carolina – Clemson game, when Clemson finished with 12 wins and no losses. The game was miserable (Clemson ran us off the field) and the weather was miserable  – highs in the 40’s with a stiff breeze blowing.  Not pleasant at all! Still haven’t figured out what I was doing there.

So when you add the walking distance, the steps, the weather, and my heart defect, I usually just don’t go to ball games. But I still have the best seat in the house…

…right in front of the TV!

Cheer Up!

October 7, 2010

It’s been a rough week for those of us with a Congenital Heart Defect, and things have been pretty gloomy here at Funky Heart Central. But a few days ago a friend took a photo and added some text. After it was printed, she and her husband signed it, slipped it into an envelope, and mailed it to me. It arrived today and things are beginning to look brighter! (Click Photo to Enlarge!)

Thank you, Amanda and Jim!!


Denver Congenital Heart Walk 2010


Left foot, right foot….

September 2, 2010

I go walking,  after midnight... – Walking after Midnight,  Patsy Cline (1957)

Actually I walking early this morning, before the temperature went up. After my fall and the Gout, I’ve walked very little for the past month and my body isn’t used to it. I’ve not walked in so long that my dog barked at me! One bark… almost as if she barked and then thought  “I didn’t recognize you! Oh man, don’t take this personally, OK?”

I didn’t walk much at all before I was exhausted – I’m going to have to go alllllllll the way back to the very beginning of my walking plan. The first time my Cardiologist told me to get out and walk, I planned to circle the driveway for 15 minutes.

I barely lasted seven minutes before I felt like my lungs were going to explode. But I was back at it the next day, and slowly built up my stamina. It’s the only way I know how to do it.

So…. see ya on the walking trail tomorrow!