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Forum Name: Cardiology Symptoms

Question: Heart palitpations


 lexikat22 - Fri Jan 26, 2007 4:50 pm

I am a 24 year woman who until last year was a competitive athlete. I stopped training and only exercised occasionally as I was enrolled in college and did not have the time. I have what my doctors have called an innocent heart mummer, and when I was sixteen had an EKG and ultrasound that Doctor's said was innocent.

In October, when I was under great stress (midterms, my family was trying to buy a home, my car broke down and I had to wake up every morning at 5am and run about 1 mile to make a bus and then walk about another mile to school w/o much food because I didn't have time to eat, I was basically drinking black sugary coffee all day). Yes, I know it was unhealthy and I haven't done it since but about month into that hectic schedule I began experiencing fluttering heart palpitations.

They were frequent at first but overtime and as conditions became less stressful the fluttering lessened. However, they occurred more frequently while I was eating, especially chicken. So I stopped eating chicken and the fluttering only came about once a week.

Now there's no fluttering but just one misbeat that is what I believe to be long though it lasts less than one second. It occurs very infrequently but I sacred of what it could be. If anyone has experienced anything like this or is a doctor or in the medical profession and have some insight please let me know.
Thank you
 John Kenyon, CNA - Tue Jan 30, 2007 1:47 pm

User avatar Hello lexicat22 - The symptoms you describe sound very much like benign premature heartbeats, either premature atrial contractions (PACs) or premature ventricular contractions (PVCs). While almost everyone has some of these at some times, some of us have more than others, and while some are totally unaware of them, others feel every one. People who have mitral valve prolapse (MVP), an almost always innocent variation of normal which is sometimes accompanied by an "innocent" click murmer usually feel more of these little "blips."

When one experiences a period of sustained stress (as you certainly did fairly recently) the premature beats may become much more frequent and more noticeable. Once they start and attract attention to themselves, they often become self-perpetuating because the anxiety produced by one can cause the release of adrenaline, which only serves to trigger more. This can become a really annoying and bothersome cycle,
which usually trails off until the next stressful life event.

In any case these premature beats are not dangerous, except insofar as the anxiety they cause can be very disruptive.

These little "misfires" also normally happen at certain specific times: when we are falling asleep or sometimes just changing to a more comfortable resting position (especially lying on one's left side), when eating (swallowing sometimes can trigger them because the vagus nerve, which controls slowing of the heart rate is so near the esophagus), digesting of food, times of anxiety or stress, after consuming caffeine, etc. The list goes on and on.

Each premature beat is followed by a pause, while the heart resets itself in order to keep the underlying rhythm the same (that is to say, if one beat comes early in an otherwise regular string of beats, the heart pauses for a moment until the next regular beat "should" occur). This can easily approach a full second, if you take into consideration that a fit person's heart rate may only be 60 per minute anyway (or lower). This is called a "compensatory pause" and suggests an overall normal rhythm broken only by the occasional early beat.

I strongly suspect the swallowing of chicken to be coincidental, or maybe you have a fondness for chicken and eat it frequently? It would be a shame to give up something you like because of this, especially since poultry is fairly healthy food.

In short, these are not a reason for concern, but many people do feel uneasy because of them. The best medicine in most cases is reassurance. I hope I've accomplished that.

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