Friday, September 13, 2013

Cardiac Arrhythmia and Marfan Syndrome, Socks and Gloves

Cold temperatures and I have never been fond of each other.  My heart too detests what the cold does to my circulatory system.
Touching cold objects causes my heart to beat wildly

With the Marfan Syndrome issues affecting my body, including extra height and long limbs, the heart inside has to work extra hard every moment just pump blood those extra long distances.  But when cold affects my fingers and toes my heart sometimes goes crazy trying to figure out how to handle pumping blood through now constricted blood vessels way out there in the fingers and toes.

To put it simply, when my fingers and toes become cold my heart sometimes starts racing or jumping around with crazy atrial fibrillation, also know as cardiac arrhythmia.

My simple solution for avoiding this type of heart fluttering lies in warm socks, a pair of soft comfy gloves and warm weather.

Its that easy for me to avoid certain types of cardiac arrhythmias.  Keep those toes and fingers warm.  Don't let them get cold.

Our body has certain reactions to cold.  One of the first things our body does when our peripheral temperature (temperature of toes, limbs, fingers, arms and ears) drops is to vaso-constrict blood vessels.  There is a good, brief explanation about cold and our body's cardiovascular system on the website.

An even more comprehensive and excellent brief, visually oriented website explaining the fundamentals of cardiovascular output and variables that can affect both blood pressure and heart rate is published by James Doohan and is a site I highly recommend.

As my curiosity concerning peripheral body temperature and arrhythmia grew, I wondered about my own body.

Judy says my fingers and toes are unusually cold and I agree.  I hate the cold weather or touching anything cold or jumping water.

So I measured my body temperature orally with our medicine thermometer.  The temperature in my mouth was 97.7 F, or 36.5 C.  My fingers and toes were so cool that the digital medicine thermometer could not determine the temperature.

Not to be thwarted I found the industrial infra-red digital thermometer I had in the garage, installed a new 9 volt battery and pointed the laser at my toes.  The readout told me why my feet felt like ice.  Toe temperature was a cool 74.4 F or 23.6 C.  My fingers were not much warmer at 76 F.  The house temperature was a pleasant 79 F while the outside temperature hovered in the mid 80's F.

For comparison I measured my wife's and children's peripheral body temperatures, though the teens thought I was crazy.

Judy's finger and toe temperatures were in the low 90's F.  The two marf teens, with their long limbs were more like me, with lower peripheral body temperatures.

These temperatures are no surprise to me because I know my heart has to pump blood extra long distances, all the while dealing with installed metal parts and foreign aortic components.  The old clicker is also stressed from multiple open heart surgeries, functioning well below normal output.

So when the fingers and toes get cold and the skin vessels constrict as they do naturally to conserve body heat, the heart has a harder job pumping blood.  At this point all the node chemicals and signals start to fire, diastolic pressure jumps and my heart attempts to increase output.

It is kind of like flooring the accelerator pedal in a car with an engine about to throw a rod.  Motor starts shaking, clanging, huffing and puffing and, well you get the picture.

Of course there are many causes of arrhythmia.

But because they are so frightening to me with my beat up heart and aorta, controlling one cause is important.  When  my heart  goes into erratic beat patterns I become concerned the dissected descending aorta will further aneuryze, dilate or even burst.

Fortunately warm comfortable socks, like those made for diabetic patients can moderate lower body peripheral temperatures and reduce the likelihood of signalling for increased cardiovascular output.  Gloves too address the same issue on the hands.

Avoiding cold weather is my big strategy.

But wherever you live, keeping peripheral body temperature fluctuations to a minimum might help you solve some of your afib or arrhythmia problems.  It is worth a try!

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