Tuesday, February 22, 2011

As Seen on The Doctors

I was flipping through the channels this afternoon and (to my delight) caught a short segment about heart palpitations on the television show The Doctors (aka America's Medical Dream Team).

They had a young woman on the show named Sarah who complained of heart palpitations along with feelings of her heart racing, being unable to catch her breath, and feeling faint without actually fainting. The young woman was visibly quite scared.

The Doctors mentioned that the woman had an underlying cause that was most likely attributing to her heart palpitations. Want to take a guess of the cause?

If you guessed Mitral Valve Prolapse, you're right! I've talked a little bit about MVP before on my blog, but here's a crash course if you can't remember. Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) occurs when the valve between your heart's left upper chamber (left atrium) and the left lower chamber (left ventricle) doesn't close properly. When the left ventricle contracts, the valve's flaps bulge (prolapse) upward or back into the atrium. Mitral (MIE-truhl) valve prolapse sometimes leads to blood leaking backward into the left atrium, a condition called mitral valve regurgitation.

Dr. John Kennedy on The Doctors, said that most likely the regurgitation was "tickling" or "irritating" Sarah's heart and thus the heart palpitations.

Sarah wore a 24 hour holter monitor and completed a 30 day event monitor for prognosis. The results were that even when she was palpitating she overall had a normal sinus rhythm. Sarah was going to be okay.

The Doctors urged her to lower her stress levels whether it be "trying a yoga class" or "reading a book."

Disclaimer: When watching The Doctors, if you are a woman, you may want to use caution when looking at Dr. Travis Stork (a former Bachelor on ABC's The Bachelor). He has been known to make a woman's heart start palpitating.

Wonders and Worries Poster

So if you know anyone that has a chronic illness or condition and has kids you may want to try this idea that my friend who suffers from epilepsy did. And even if you don't have kids, you may want to try this project to help vent your own frustrations about your chronic condition.

My friend had a really rough end of last year with hospital stays, grand mal seizures, and a new medication that made her drowsy and forgetful. She said she felt like she was in a very deep fog. She had to sleep A LOT more because if she didn't it would bring on more stress and thus more seizures. She came to a Christmas party and told me later she doesn't even remember going to it. Since she had a big seizure in December, the State of Texas requires her to wait at least 6 months before she can drive again.

My friend has a kindergartner.

She said through all of it, she mostly worried about her child and how he felt watching his mother suffer so much from epilepsy last year. She reached out in her community and discovered a local organization called Wonders and Worries. The non-profit, free-of-charge organization counsels children in understanding the situation and handling the potential negative effects of a parent with a chronic or life-threatening illness. She said one of the ideas that the organization told her about was to create a poster that both her and her child could do together. The poster they would create was entitled "Why Epilepsy Sucks". They cut out images from magazines or drew pictures on their poster board that represented the negative effects of her disease. For example, they had a picture of a car (because she could no longer drive), a bed (because she spent so much time in it), a house (because they couldn't go out as much), a dad (because her son had to spend a lot more time with him), a doctor's office and a hospital (because she spent a lot of time there), a sad boy (because he worried about his mother), etc.

My heart arrhythmia condition and panic disorder has definitely caused me to worry about its effects on my child. I've wondered if I'll ever be incapacitated by it, will she inherit it, will I have to miss important events in her life because of it, will she worry about me. The list could go on and on. Right now, I'm a highly functioning person despite it, but I worry that some day I might not be. I've had anxiety episodes where I can't drive, go out, or sleep well at night. I've had arrhythmia episodes where I've had to remove myself from a place or situation to get my heart's rhythm back under control. Or I've had to sleep a lot to reduce stress and induce relaxation. So just knowing that there are places out there and things our family can do if my condition worsens gives me much peace. I will definitely try a "Wonders and Worries Poster" if ever need be with my daughter.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

No Strings Attached

Hollywood tried to define PVCs for us in the new movie No Strings Attached starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. Emma (Portman), a doctor in residency, gives Adam (Kutcher) a Valentine's Day card that reads: "You give me premature ventricular contractions". He looks at her puzzled by the medical jargon, and she decodes it for him immediately: "My heart skips a beat." Hardy har har. Funnier if you don't live with them. But I'll try to remember that one for next Valentine's.

And for the record, Tinseltown, PVCs may be perceived as skipped beats but as we have learned, they are actually just premature beats that occur before the regular heartbeat.

And also for the record, I did not actually see the movie, but I read about that line on a movie review. The film critic was trying to demonstrate how genuinely funny the movie is.

Yeah, sure.

If you drink alcohol (even just a little)...

you may want to check out this article from the Metro in the UK.

By now most of us know the effects of heavy alcohol consumption on the heart, but this is the first time warnings have been attached to moderate drinking.

It's a bit tricky though when you think about consuming a glass of red wine, like I did on Valentine's Day. It's a pretty well known fact that red wine has some amazing components such as flavonoids and other antioxidants in reducing heart disease risk. And sometimes a glass of red wine may help us to relax and relieve stress. So in that way I'm at less of a risk for experiencing heart palpitations if stress is my usual culprit. My thought. If an occasional glass here or there doesn't bother you, then I think it's okay. But if even a sip gets your heart a dancin' I'd think you'd want to avoid drinking altogether. Of course, check with your doctor.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Sunday was my birthday. I'm now 31 years old. Turning 30 was really difficult for me. My cousin died when she was 30, and I think it has always haunted me. I even played this twisted game in my head that somehow I would die when I was 30 of a heart arrhythmia just like her. I'm so thankful to God that I lived through 30 and He has given me yet another day to take care of my precious little girl. My heart still weeps that Beth did not.


After reading that Ashley Wagner likes to jog to relieve stress and thus prevent heart palpitations, I was convicted that I had yet to jog this year. Screw the New Year's Resolutions (or "Dreams" as I called them)--I didn't even make it a day! In all honesty, my family and I have been sick a lot this year (the stomach bug made its ugly round) and we've had some unusually cold weather (lows in the teens and a sprinkle of snow) here in Texas. All of this has made me want to stay in bed with the covers over my head. [As a side note, I once googled "sleeping under the covers" to make sure it wasn't dangerous because this is a preferred way I like to sleep. I didn't see anything to alert me.] But enough of the excuses. The weather has been mild and after stuffing myself with yet another truffle and cupcake, I decided enough is enough. I'm done with the sweets (for just a bit), and I'm ready to jog again. So after a play date, I was pleased to come home to my husband awaiting us in his workout clothes. He asked if we wanted to go on a jog. Yes! I put on my heart rate monitor, stretched, and was out of the door. We jogged and walked for a good half hour. It felt great! Afterward we sat down to a yummy dinner of pasta with edamame and sugar snap peas. I'm ready to start a routine of jogging and healthy eating. Can someone help me stay accountable????? Please!!!!!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Figure Skater Ashley Wagner

Anyone that knows me knows that I'm a huge ice-skating fan. I love the Winter Olympics every four years, and I usually try to watch the U.S. Nationals and World competition every year. In fact, when I saw that I was having a little girl at my 20 week ultrasound, I jumped for joy that I would have someone to watch ice-skating with (just like I always did with my mom). Last week, much to my delight, my 2 year-old daughter decided she wanted to watch the "princesses on ice" with me as the U.S. National Figure Skating Championship was televised. We were watching the beautiful 18year-old Ashley Wagner (she was the alternate for the women's team last year at the Olympics) perform when the announcers mentioned that she was back on the ice after being troubled with heart palpitations last year. I kept meaning to google it and finally got around to it today. Ashley developed heart palpitations while in Sofia, Bulgaria last Feb. for the Jr. World Championships. She recalls, "My heart felt like it was about to fall out of my chest. I was dizzy. I couldn't breathe." Her coach explains that they did an EKG at the rink because they couldn't figure out what was wrong. "It was scary at the time," her coach said. Wagner said the problem initially began developing a few weeks before her trip. "It started out very, very mild," she said. "I'd be at home before I left, and I'd be sitting down and I felt like my heart would just stop moving... Then it would kind of beat faster to catch up... Once I got to Bulgaria, I was probably exhausted from the trip also and it just set everything off."

Hello, Ashley. Welcome to the crazy heart dance (this one might not be as fun as the dance on ice). Ashley said team doctors told her in Bulgaria that the palpitations were the result of stress and dehydration. After being checked out by the doctors, she went on to place third at Jr. Worlds. Once she got home, she made sure that strucuturally everything was okay with her heart and that she wasn't in any real danger. Now, Ashely says, "I just have to stay hydrated, and I have to stay calm." Wagner has been working on alleviating stress by giving herself down time and taking weekend jogs. She's been making sure to drink plenty of water.

What struck me most about Ashley was that yes, heart palpitations can occur in very healthy and fit individuals. Also, they start for many in their late teen years and early 20's. Mine also started when I was 18 and in my first year at college. I'm always so amazed when I hear stories like this one. I'm not alone. And neither are you. So if your palpitations are benign and you have a structurally sound heart, let's do what Ashley does. Stay calm and drink lots of water! And hey, a jog couldn't hurt either.