Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Pinot noir

"Can you take down your pants and lie on your side, facing the wall?"

I'm in a private clinic, having a health check-up, and the doctor has decided that he should feel my prostate. He slips his middle finger slowly into my arse.

"Ahhh, there it is, ... yes, ... normal size, ... ok, ... ok, ... no lumps, ... yes all normal :-)," he says, withdrawing his finger after what felt like a very thorough examination. I feel that the running commentary wasn't strictly necessary.

"You can pull up your pants now, but can you leave your shirt off? I just want to listen to your heart."

No one in my family, including me, has ever had any heart problems so I feel quite relaxed. But I'm in for a shock!

"I think I can hear a heart murmur," he says, after several repeated touches of the cold stethoscope on my chest and back, "Just lie back again and let me check."

"Yes, it's definitely there, has anyone ever mentioned this to you before?"

"Errr, no," I answer nervously, not at all sure what it all means, "will I be OK?"

"Probably," he replies after a small delay, "but I'd like to send you to see a cardiologist to check this out."

"That's the point of these check-ups you know :-)," he continues, with a satisfied tone in his voice, "to find potential issues before they become problems!"

A few days later and I'm having an echocardiogram done at a nearby hospital. After the scan, I get given a piece of paper with a summary of the results to carry over for review by the consultant cardiologist. Looking at the document, I see scary phrases like "concentric left ventricular hypertrophy" and "ascending aortic dilatation". But the phrase "normal in structure and function" also occurs with a reassuring frequency, so maybe I'll be OK after all.

After a short wait I get to see the consultant. He sees that I look a bit nervous, so after the introductions he tries to put me at ease.

"Everyone would have a heart murmur if you listened to their heart in a quiet enough room," he explains, "and a murmur isn't necessarily something to worry about. For example, pregnant women have murmurs because their hearts have to work harder!"

He reads the document that I carried over from the scan and smiles. "All your heart valves are fine according to this, so take your shirt off and let's listen to this murmur."

As well as listening to my heart, he also takes my blood pressure and measures my heart rate.

"You've got quite a slow heart beat, only 49 beats a minute," he says smiling, "do you go to the gym much?"

"Errr yes," I answer, "I try and keep fit, and I like to go running sometimes, but perhaps I need to be careful exerting myself too much in the future if I've got heart problems?"

"Well then, that explains everything," he replies, "you've got an athlete's heart! The murmur is simply because you're heart can pump more blood in a single heartbeat than the average person. So keep running and going to the gym because it's good for you :-). You don't smoke do you?"

"No, I've never smoked," I answer, "but I do like to drink alcohol!"

"That's fine in moderation," replies the consultant, "Red wine is best because of the antioxidants."

"That's good because I like red wine," I say enthusiastically.

"Well then, they reckon that pinot noir is best, because it's got very slightly more antioxidants than other grape varieties."

A bottle of Romanée-Conti 2002Pinot noir is the grape variety used for red wine in Burgundy, as I've said before, it's one of my favourite styles of wine.

"Anyway," he continues, "everything is absolutely fine, your heart is fit and healthy, so you don't need to spend time seeing people like me!"

I had no idea when first heard about my heart murmur that things would turn out so well. According to the consultant I've got an athlete's heart, and more than that, my favourite red wine grape variety is even better for me than I'd thought! Boyfriend T tends to prefer claret to red Burgundy, but armed with this information, perhaps I'll be able to persuade him to drink Burgundy with me a little more often :-).