Vince will be the first to admit he can sometimes have an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset about his health. Talbot’s training and nearly 20 years of experience got him the care he needed.
Vince says he was under a doctor’s care for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and knew his heart rate was on the lower side of the normal range of 60-100 beats per minute (bpm). When Talbot was checking his vital signs prior to his first pulmonary rehabilitation session, one number stood out – 32. Vince’s heart rate was showing just 32 bpm.
Because Talbot’s clinic does both pulmonary and cardiac rehabilitation, she put a heart monitor on Vince to get a better idea of what was happening. That confirmed 32 bpm and showed Vince had a heart block. The term “heart block” refers to a disruption in the heart’s electrical system, not a blocked artery.
Vince’s cardiologist, Nadeem Ahmad, MD, with Lehigh Valley Heart and Vascular Institute, says tests that day showed the top chambers of Vince’s heart were beating at 100 bpm, but because of disease in the heart’s electrical system, only about a third of those signals were getting to the two bottom chambers to cause them to beat as well. “His heart was pumping slowly because the electrical signal was slow,” says Ahmad, of LVPG Cardiology–Muhlenberg and LVPG Cardiology–Bangor.
Ahmad says as people age, their heart’s electrical system also ages and it’s not unusual to develop a slower heart rate. Of course, heart rates such as Vince’s 32 bpm are extremely slow and not the norm, with the potential to cause symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness and fatigue.
Talbot says once she explained everything to Vince, he was willing to take the next step of going to the hospital emergency room. She says Vince comes from a generation that sometimes feels if something isn’t that bad, if they feel relatively good, they can tolerate it and don’t seek follow-up care. Vince says he did have some prior dizziness but chalked it up to being tired. “I didn’t think anything of it,” he says.
“We were able to convince him the best thing to do is be evaluated in the ER and consult with the cardiologist,” Talbot says. “The bottom line is we always want patients to get the care they need. By trying to see things from the patient’s perspective, we can help encourage them to do the right thing for their health.”