Friday, March 19, 2010

Heart Healthy

What do I do to prevent PVCs?

This is my current preventative regime. But basically it's striving for a healthy lifestyle.

Walking/Jogging (30 min.) at least 3 times a week
Eliminate all caffeine (no cokes, no coffee)
Deep breathing
Reduce white sugars and carbs
Progressive muscle relaxation
Paraliminals: Self-Improvement Audio programs
P90X: a fitness regime consisting of weights, lunges, core work
6 small meals a day and always pairing a carb with a protein unit
Plenty of water
8-10 hours of sleep
Down time
Play time
Neck adjustments/massage by a chiropractor
Plenty of fruit and vegetables
Occasional mental health therapy sessions
Limit alcohol consumption (but occasional Mexican martini)
Medication: 15mg. of Lexapro

A wonderful illustration of cardiac arrhythmias

Be patient. There is no sound. But it's priceless.
(Note the extra little kick of the ventricles in a PVC)

Happy Birthday Beth!

Yesterday would have been my cousin Beth's 41st birthday. She died in 1999 of a rare heart arrhythmia. She was only 30. The same age I am today. She left behind 4 beautiful girls. Beth was also plagued by PVCs. Her doctors initially told her not to worry and didn't take her condition serious because she was so young. Shortly before her death and unbeknownst to me that she was even experiencing heart problems, I first noticed my heart palpitations while in college. Most likely it was due to the stress of life transitions and a load of challenging coursework. Needless to say when I found out about Beth's heart problems and her subsequent death, I began to think that I had what she had. Especially when there were rumors that her death may be hereditary. To this day no one knows exactly why Beth died. Long QT? Botched ablation procedure? Weaning off Beta Blockers? V-tach? But from what we do know, Beth died of something besides occasional PVCs. It has taken me a long time to come to that conclusion. Her brother also experiences heart palpitations and his doctor has looked at Beth's medical records and also assures him that he does not have what Beth had. But at times both he and I worry when the occasional bout turns frequent or intense. Since Beth isn't around to blow out candles anymore, I'll make her wish for her. I wish that her girls would continue to grow more and more beautiful and that they would have happy healthy hearts all the days of their lives.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Why I Started this Blog

I often peruse the internet looking for info. on my heart arrhythmia, and I always end up finding many scared people who are experiencing heart palpitations like me. After a battery of tests, most doctors tell their patients that the palpitations are benign (with no presence of cardiac disease), tell them to cut out caffeine, write a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication, and tell them not to worry. The doctor usually points out that most everyone experiences PVCs at one point in their life but that not everyone feels them. The patient is just unlucky that they are sensitive to feel them. The patient usually feels better until they hear some story of a woman's heart skipping a beat and keeling over. Just doing a very quick google search I found an example of a man frightened over his symptoms.

I am a 27 year old active male, 6'2" 190lb. For about six years I have experienced "skipped" beats where it feels like my heart stops for about half a second (although it probably isn't even that long). The skips are sometimes strong enough that I feel a brief loss of breath.
I have seen a doctor on two separate occasions (the last time was probably 2-3 years ago) and both times I was told that my experiences were normal and not to worry. Although I may be imagining this, it seems as if the skipped beats have become more frequent as time goes on and that their "strength" has become greater - if i am speaking when one occurs, I sometimes must pause to catch my breath. It all happens very quickly, but it can be frightening and causes me some degree of anxiety.
The frequency of my skipped beats seems to be in direct proportion to my stress level, but they can occur seemingly randomly. They also seem to occur with some regularity while resting after physical exertion or during exertion.
I have read quite a bit recently about MVP, PVCs, and palpitations. Do my symptoms sound like one of these? From what I have read I would guess that these are PVCs and are usually benign, but I really don't know. What I fear most is that eventually my heart will skip a beat, but will get "stuck", won't return to it's normal rhythm, and I will experience a sudden death. Morbid, I know, but a genuine fear.
Any information (including *any* self-help techniques) you can give me concerning my situation would be greatly appreciated.

This poor guy! I know what he's going through. You want to believe in your doctor, you want to be courageous enough that they won't bother you, you want to live your life BUT IT'S YOUR VITAL LIFE ORGAN. If it's awry, you feel terrible. If I get a spasm in my calf, it's annoying as hell but it doesn't scare me in the least. But if my heart is out of whack, I start to see my life flash before my eyes.

If I still haven't answered the original question of why I started this blog, it's three-fold.

1) To educated myself and others about heart palpitations
2) To share my life story and how I have dealt with this pesky dance in my heart
3) To inspire others to be their own health advocates and to demand that doctors/employers/family/friends take their condition seriously.

Premature Ventricular Contractions

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Premature Ventricular Contraction (PVC), also known as a premature ventricular complex, ventricular premature contraction (or complex or complexes) (VPC), ventricular premature beat (VPB), or extrasystole, is a relatively common event where the heartbeat is initiated by the heart ventricles rather than by the sinoatrial node, the normal heartbeat initiator. The electrical events of the heart detected by the electrocardiogram allow a PVC to be easily distinguished from a normal heart beat.

A PVC may be perceived as a "skipped beat" or felt as palpitations in the chest. In a normal heartbeat, the ventricles contract after the atria have helped to fill them by contracting; in this way the ventricles can pump a maximized amount of blood both to the body and to the lungs. In a PVC, the ventricles contract first, which means that circulation is inefficient. However, single beat PVC arrhythmias do not usually pose a danger and can be asymptomatic in healthy individuals[1].