Jed Diamond, Ph.D. has been a health-care professional for more than 40 years. He isthe author of 10 books, including
Mr. Mean: Saving Your Relationship from the IrritableMale Syndrome.
I offer counseling to men, women, and couples in his office in California or byphone with people throughout the U.S. and around the world. To receive a Free E-book on
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After finishing my last book, my son Evan suggested
we do something “physicaltogether” to get in shape. That sounded good to me. Spending hours at a time writing is
engaging, but I needed a physical challenge to get my heart going. When he suggested we train
for a marathon, I was apprehensive. “I’ve n
ever run a marathon in my life, even when I wasyoung and in-
shape,” I told him. “Come on Pops, we can train together. You’re in good shapefor a guy in his 60s.”
So, train we did. After six months we were getting ready to run the
Avenue of theGiants
, a beautiful run through the redwood trees in Northern California. However two weeksbefore the race, some strange things were happening with my heart. Every once in a while myheart would
speed up for no apparent reason, even when I wasn’t exercising.
Most of us never think much about how our heart beats. During our lives it just perksalong, lub dub lub dub, pumping blood through our body. But occasionally things get out of rhythm. Since I was going to be running a marathon I thought I should get checked out by acardiologist. What I learned was very interesting.He told me there are three basic kinds of heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias): The
heartbeat is too fast, too slow, or irregular. “Arrhythmias are very common,” he told me.“Most ar
e completely benign and inconsequential, but some are extremely dangerous and life-
threatening.” He set me up for a number of tests to see if I was healthy enough to run the race.
I remembered from biology class that the heart is made up of four chambers
twoupper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles). The rhythm of our heart isnormally controlled by a natural pacemaker located in the right atrium. The sinus nodeproduces electrical impulses that normally start each heartbeat.While I was waiting for the test results I learned what I could about my heart. From theMayo Clinic I learned that a normal heartbeat begins when a tiny cluster of cells called the sinusnode which sends an electrical signal (1). The signal then travels through the atria and passesthrough another group of cells called the atrioventricular node (2). From the atrioventricularnode, the signal travels through the ventricles (3), causing them to contract and pump outblood. After this, the process starts over again, (4).