Friday, September 30, 2011

It's All In My Head

My health problems are in my head—literally. Research, monitoring my heart rate for 3 months, and Dr David Bell’s home test  have led me to this conclusion. I have a form of orthostatic intolerance known as POTS (postural tachycardia syndrome). For some mysterious reason, my heart rate fails to adjust when I go from lying/sitting to standing. Initially a healthy person’s heart rate increases when making that postural change but returns quickly to a slower rate. Mine does not, making me feel as though I am running even though I am standing still. This rapid heart rate results in cerebral hypoperfusion; a decrease in blood flow to the brain.

Cerebral hypoperfusion causes the symptoms which have plagued me for ten years and for which I was given the diagnosis by one doctor of fibromyalgia. These symptoms of fatigue, lightheadedness, headache, exercise intolerance, and cognitive impairment also seem to mimic Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

However, when I allow my brain to get the blood flow it needs, I feel a thousand times better.

And this is how I take care of my brain:
1)      Avoid prolonged standing and sitting.
2)      Rest as needed.
3)      Adopt postures that aid in maintaining an adequate blood flow to the brain: sitting in a low chair or any way in which the knees are close to the chest.
4)      Eat a low carbohydrate diet; high carb meals cause vasodilation.
5)      Maintain a liberal fluid and salt intake to ensure that the blood vessels are filled adequately.
6)      Improve physical conditioning and endurance through activity such as rowing and using a recumbent bike.

The symptoms of POTS are exacerbated for me when living at high altitude. My home has been Colorado but this summer I lived on the coast of Maine. Unlike healthy people my heart rate remains high and fails to accommodate to the lower saturation of oxygen in the atmosphere of Colorado. I feel much better at sea level.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Love Edward Hopper's Art

A few days ago Kim and I saw the art exhibit “Edward Hopper’s Maine” at Bowdoin College. I love his art. Even before knowing who the artist was I have long admired his paintings.

Art conveys beauty or truth or both. Hopper’s paintings are stark but they magically distill beauty down to simple elements. His ability to portray sunlight and shadow is exquisite.

He captures the beauty of wind, sea and sky in his paintings of sailing. Ground Swell communicates the adventure, excitement and fun of sailing.

Ground Swell

The Long Leg reveals the peace and tranquility yet hints at the tedium.

The Long Leg

 He brings out the beauty of the simplest, most ordinary buildings.

Early Sunday Morning

Many of his paintings lack human figures but when they are there, they are often lonely, detached figures, absorbed in thought or intent on a task. This illustrates a truth about the loneliness of being human. We come into this world alone and we die alone. What makes life worthwhile is being able to connect with others. But this is an area where we often fail. Selfishness, pride, fear of intimacy, and fierce protection of our fragile egos inhibit community.