The heart of a runner

Today was my annual physical. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but it’s a necessary evil. Every three years my doctor orders an EKG as part of my labs. Today was one of those years.

I always show up well before my appointment time in order to knock out my labs first. That way, once I see my doctor, I’m done. So as I was sitting in the waiting room between my labs and the actual visit with the doctor, I received a call from the technician who had done my EKG. She needed to see me.

I knew exactly what this was going to be about. She had already shown my doctor the results of my EKG. They were concerned about my low heart rate. It was 40 beats per minute. She relayed the message that my doctor wanted me to see a cardiologist for further testing. “I’m a runner,” I informed the technician. “I run half-marathons. My ‘at rest’ heart rate is always in the 40’s.” (Sometimes it’s even lower.) She told me to just talk to the doctor about it. In the meantime, she handed me a lab order I was to give the cardiologist when I made my appointment.

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me. The last time I got an EKG, the lab technician doing the test was a little concerned about my heart rate. It was something like 48 that time. Once when I went to the local walk-in clinic, I set off their low heart rate alarm when they were taking my blood pressure and pulse. So this is something I’m always prepared for.

At any rate, after sitting in the waiting room watching a small army of pharmaceutical reps take priority over the patients, I finally got in to see my doctor. I asked him about the EKG. I reminded him that I am a runner and that a heart rate of 40 is perfectly normal for me. “You know what,” he admitted, “I forgot that you’re a runner. I actually had you confused with another one of my patients who is overweight and doesn’t exercise at all.” He listened to my heart and lungs as part of the examination. “Slow and steady,” he remarked. “Don’t worry about that lab order. I’m not concerned.”

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