I'm an anxious person with palpitations and am discovering more about them every day. I'd love to know what cause yours, what they feel like to you, and what you've done to deal with them either through pharmacological/physiological care or mental effort. Otherwise feel free to read through my journey so far and if you find something helpful or can offer any advice
I'm a long-time lurker and have been dealing with my own cardiac struggles for the past few years. I want to share my story here to help others who may be struggling, and allow others to give their input as I may be going about this all wrong. Anyway, here’s Wonderwall(oftext)…
It all started back in 2015 when the anxiety monster got a hold of me for the first time. I've always been somewhat of a worrier, even as a kid, but something changed a few years ago. I started worrying about my health in a way I never had before. It started one day when I was feeling out of breath. I hadn't been exercising or doing anything strenuous so that was odd. But what was most odd was how worried and frightened it made me. I wasn't out of breath, I simply felt that way. I later confirmed this by going out and buying a pulse oximeter and measuring my O2 saturation during the times when I felt out of breath (this feeling has continued since then, I call it ‘air hunger’). My O2 levels were always 97-99%, even during my worst moments. But the urge to try and take a very deep breath wouldn't go away. Eventually, I just learned to live with it. It was uncomfortable but obviously doing me no real physical harm, so when it happens today, I calm myself and push through it, reminding myself that it's not a real thing and is just psychosomatic.
I wish I could say the same about my heart. Now, before I go any further let me say that I actually have an appointment with a cardiologist scheduled for next week to rule out any possible health issues I might have. The reason I scheduled this appointment in the first place is because, since the time of my first real anxiety attack back in 2015, I have been having palpitations. My first time going to the ER was over them because, as will come as no surprise, I thought I was having a heart attack. I was totally fine. They did an x-ray of my heart and told me that it is structurally fine, so I at least have that going for me. What they didn't do, is catch any of the palpitations on ecg though.
Now, I'm not certain what kind they are, but I suspect PVCs/PACs. The reason I suspect this is because I have checked my pulse before while they were happening and noticed that there is a distinct lack of heart beat where a normal sinus rhythm beat should go followed by an abnormal pumping sensation in my chest and then a more pronounced heart beat afterwards. I picked this up on my pulse ox as well one time. On the small LCD display by the numbers there is a little vertical bar that lights up as it detects my pulse in real time. Once while I was having a bout of these palpitations, I put it on my finger and noticed that the vertical bar would indeed stop for a beat and pick back up on the next one. As a side note, I do understand that PVC/PACs are not actually your heart skipping a beat, but a premature weak beat followed by a more forceful one to pump the extra blood out that pooled up.
The sensation I get when these happen isn't painful, but it is wildly uncomfortable. I feel an abnormal pumping sensation like my heart is doing a flip and I can feel it my neck as well as my chest. I've had these for years now and they've gotten worse sense quarantine started (a sign pointing directly at the root cause I'm sure: anxiety), thus why I've scheduled with a cardiologist to get checked out. I imagine they will put me on a 24-hour monitor since I typically have them every day. I've noticed that I have anywhere from 0 (my favorite days) up to a few dozen per day. Usually they happen by themselves but occasionally will happen every other beat or every few beats for a few seconds, up to about a minute. When I've had them for longer periods (30-60 seconds) I don't notice feeling out of breath, weak, dizzy, etc., just very uncomfortable with the sensation. They keep me from exercising because they tend to happen when I'm jostled around or doing poses (think running or yoga).
Now, for triggers. These are some of the many triggers I have found over the years: eating a heavy meal (doesn’t even matter what), burping, straining, taking deep breaths, not sleeping well (especially on just waking), being cold, drinking through a straw, talking at higher than normal volume, drinking something cold or fizzy, bending down (think putting on socks or downward dog), and the list goes on. These triggers aren't constant. It's more like, sometimes my heart seems more irritable and that's when the triggers will almost certainly cause them. There are times when they seem to happen out of nowhere, but that is by far the exception to the rule.
My most recent scary bout was having them while I was on a run. I have been sedentary for the past year and a half because of a new job (where I have health insurance, which is why I scheduled the cardio visit) but I recently decided to get back in shape with my girlfriend. We started the couch to 5k program (I used to run 8-12 miles a day so I thought this would be piece of cake) and I made it through the first few days no problem. Well, it was pretty tough but that’s just because I’m so out of shape compared to where I used to be. On day 3 or 4 we started running and I felt fine initially. Then about halfway into the run I noticed I was getting palpitations during the rest intervals. I didn’t notice them while I was running, but it scared me, so I stopped running. I had them consistently (every few beats) for about 10 minutes. That’s the longest streak I’ve ever had and the next day I scheduled a visit with the cardiologist. I will say that they don’t seem to be connected to a high heart rate. For a good bit last year, I was biking almost every day for exercise and would get to 80-90% max HR with no issues or palpitations. But I’ve had palpitations twice now while running and this most recent event lasted long enough for me to want to see a doc.
I did tell my GP about my palpitations years ago when they first started happening, but he was dismissive and wanted to run blood tests without an ecg or event monitor. I didn’t have insurance then so I didn’t get the panels as I couldn’t afford them. However, I did get a comprehensive panel done when I went to the ER and there was nothing out of line except for slightly low sodium. I understand that having your electrolytes out of balance can cause them as well so I’m hoping this doc next week will request blood work be done so I can find out where I’m going off the charts.
In conjunction with all of this I am going to start working on my mental health. I know all too well the vicious feedback loop that is palpitations begetting anxiety begetting more palpitations. And while I may not be able to control the triggers or causes of my palpitations, I can control my response to them, just not on my own. Admittedly I’ve gotten a lot better. They used to be downright panic inducing and now they only cause to me to worry a moderate amount. Learning to live with them has to be the single hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, including going through a really gut-wrenching divorce.
So, at this point I guess I’ll pass the question off to you: What do your palpitations feel like? How do you deal/cope with them? Do you feel like it has affected your quality of life in a negative or positive way? What things have you learned about life because of your struggles with palpitations. Any and all thoughts are welcomed and appreciated.
Much Love and Peace,