Bronze ballerina and phone boxes, Covent Garden, London.
You may have noticed that lately I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front. That's due to a combination of travel, work and particularly, health issues. I was born with a hole in my heart, although it was detected only four years ago. Since then, I've been made aware of the importance of remaining vigilant, particularly as heart disease is the single biggest threat to women's health.
Turning 50, unwittingly I joined a high-risk group. Not only do I have a hole in my heart - and therefore more susceptible to migraine, stroke and blood clots - there's a family history of heart disease. As one Western doctor noted, "Genetics load the gun; lifestyle pulls the trigger."
At the moment I take no medication, only vitamins. But my body is changing; I can no longer eat or drink anything I want and shrug it off. I have to walk and exercise nearly every day to see any effects. I need less stress and more sleep; rarely do I achieve either.If I have any dental work done, I must take antibiotics an hour before, due to the risk of infection to the lining of my heart. The key to managing the situation with my heart - just as with any health issue - is awareness. Occasionally, warning signs suggest something is off-balance. Consequently, this week I'm undergoing numerous cardiology tests; the most-extensive ones on Thursday. I am lucky to have good cardiologists and specialist medical attention, as well as excellent health insurance. I shudder to think of the financial costs of such care in the US.
I'm writing about dealing with my heart problem, not to garner sympathy, but to encourage you to see your doctor and get regular medical check-ups. Cardiovascular disease is a silent, stealth killer, responsible for one in four women's deaths. In Europe, 55 percent of women die of heart disease. Cardiovascular disease kills more women than breast cancer, cervical cancer or any other serious illness.
Learn to recognise the warning signs of heart attack or stroke. But see your doctor regularly; don't wait for warning signs. The American Heart Association and the British Heart Foundation have information online about education, treatment and care.