Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Heart Healthy: Listen to Your Body

As a sophomore in high school, I started noticing changes in my body that I knew were not normal. At basketball practice, I had a really hard time keeping up with the other girls. This had never been a problem for me before- in fact, I was usually at the front of the pack. The more I would run at practice, the colder my hands and feet would get. I remember not being able to catch or throw the ball very well as I couldn’t feel my hands! I also started blacking out upon standing up or when standing for extended periods of time. In addition to all of this, I was ALWAYS exhausted.

My mom was my biggest advocate- she also knew something was not right. After seeing my primary care doctor, I was sent to a cardiologist in a nearby town. After performing an electrocardiogram (EKG), the doctor discovered that my resting heart rate was only 40. Because of this, and my family history of mitral valve prolapse, she decided to run a few more tests, one of which included wearing a portable heart monitor for 24 hours. We soon found out that all of my tests appeared to be normal. The doctor was still concerned, and referred us to a pediatric cardiologist in Fargo. He also found everything with my heart to be normal.

After this, we were constantly shuffled between doctors without ever getting an answer. I was told that depression was causing all of my symptoms. While this eventually became part of my struggle, I knew at the time that it was not the main problem. (In my next blog, I will talk more about this and how it inspired me to develop my personal platform).

My mom continued to push for an answer, as at this point, I was missing a lot of school from being so tired. I also had to drop out of basketball because I simply could not keep up, and it seemed to make my condition worse. By some sort of miracle, my mom heard about a doctor in Fargo that she thought could help me. We secured an appointment and went to see him.

Dr. Patron is actually an infectious disease specialist, but he is the one who figured out what was wrong with me. After describing my symptoms to him, he immediately had a list of things he thought could be wrong, and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardic Syndrome (POTS) was at the top of that list. Dr. Patron set up a tilt table test, and after “failing” it (passing out), I was diagnosed with POTS.

POTS is a disease of the autonomic nervous system that causes a variety of symptoms, the most prominent being an abnormally large increase in heart rate upon standing. Upon standing, I would experience a large jump in heart rate as well as my blood pressure dropping extremely low, which is why I would often black out or faint. My blood circulation was bad because of this, and that is why my hands and feet we always cold.

The good news was that POTS is a manageable disease. I was given certain lifestyle changes to make including drinking excessive amounts of water, increasing my salt intake, and doing at least 20 minutes of cardio a day (this was the most difficult, as having POTS makes you exercise intolerant, yet you have to do it to improve). I was also put on medication to try to lower my heart rate and to help raise my blood pressure.

My take away message from this story is to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! You know it best. Without listening to my body, I may not have been diagnosed, and would have not known what to do to help combat my symptoms. While POTS is not technically a “heart disease,” it still affects my heart and the way it works. I have to be conscious of my heart and keeping it healthy. I am thankful everyday that Dr. Patron was able to diagnose me, and also thankful that my parents pushed for an answer. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Happy Heart Month!

Happy Heart Month everyone!

On February 1, National Wear Red Day I was able to help out at the Mary J. Berg Women’s Heart Celebration event on my college campus of North Dakota State University. I spent the first part of the night greeting guests as they arrived and giving them gift bags that contained goodies and information about Go Red For Women and the American Heart Association. It was fun to see both NDSU faculty and students come to this event to learn more about heart health! After everyone had arrived, the program started and a cardiologist and a heart disease survivor both spoke to the crowd.

One of the things that I remember most from the program was the cardiologist’s mention of the connection between depression and heart disease. She stated that an important way to prevent heart disease is to treat any cases of depression. During my interview at the state pageant this past December, I remember explaining this connection to one of my judges. People who are depressed tend to live a more sedentary lifestyle, and thus, are more at risk for heart disease.

Having this connection between my personal platform of mental health awareness and the International Pageant’s alliance with Go Red For Women makes me even more passionate about them both!

Here are some ways you can stay heart healthy, not only for yourself, but also for your loved ones:
-   Don’t smoke!
-   Exercise! One thing I have learned is that even if you only have 20 minutes a day to exercise, it is still something! So get out there and get moving!
-   Eat a healthy, well balanced diet. This means controlling your portion size, eating fruits and vegetables, and watching your fat cholesterol, and sodium intake.
-   Know your numbers! This includes knowing your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, waist size, and BMI.
-   Listen to your body- you know it best! Only you can know what is going on with your body. If something is out of the “ordinary” for you, get it checked out! (See my personal story on my next blog!)

Xoxo, Taylor 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Glam Weekend!!!

This past weekend I had the chance to live out every little girl’s dream to be treated like a princess. My step mom and I traveled to the Twin Cities on Thursday afternoon in order to start a busy weekend full of photo shoots and trying on evening gowns.

On Friday morning I had my individual photo session with the wonderful Paula Preston. I have gotten to know Paula over the past couple of years competing in the International Pageant system, and it is always a great experience working with her. I also was lucky to have the glam squad of Penny Wells and James Peterson doing my make-up and hair. I always have so much fun with these two! The pictures turned out AMAZING and I don’t know how I am going to choose my favorite! After my photo shoot was done I had an appointment with one of our sponsors, Sarah Moses at The Pageant Shop! I have been to see Sarah a few times before, so I knew I was in for an amazing experience. I think this was my step mom’s favorite part of the whole weekend. She has three sons, and so it was fun for her to get to experience something so girly and glitzy!

On Saturday I was finally reunited with my sister queens, Grace and Jen, for our group photo shoot! Kathy and Allison had such a great vision of what they wanted our photos to look like, and Paula, Penny, and James did an amazing job of making it come to life! I can’t wait for everyone to see the photos. (I am always amazed at how physically demanding a photo shoot can be- I woke up the next morning with sore muscles!)

After the shoot was over, us queens, along with our directors Kathy and Allison (and baby Jackson!) did a little shopping- or what I like to call “stimulating the economy.” Miss North Dakota International 2011, Stacey Schaffer also joined us! Stacey and I competed together the year that she won, and it was great to see her again and catch up!

On Sunday we visited another one of our wonderful sponsors, Bessie’s Boutique. This was my first time at Bessie’s- she is so sweet and has such a cute store! After trying on more beautiful dresses, it was time to hit the road and head home.

I want to say a big thank you so Paula, Penny, James, Sarah, and Bessie for all of your support for the North Dakota International Pageants! You all truly made me feel like a queen!

Taylor, Miss North Dakota International 2013