Sunday, August 3, 2014

A matter of the heart

If you would have asked me three years ago, I would have said I didn't really get sick or injured. Heck, if you asked me two years ago "well there was that one time." Even last year, "yeah, not really, but when it happens it's a doozy" But now I'm starting to wonder.

Two years ago - the big bike accident
Last year - Meningitis
This year ... bum bum baaa

Back Story

Actually this started last year - but until recently I had sort of been playing it cool. A few times last year, it's hard to know how many, but enough that I'd say it was regular, but not predictable. During a workout my heart would start to race - WAY above normal workout levels. I mean, when I run my HR can get into the 170-180 range. But occasionally this would happen

Surprisingly that's not just a glitch in my HRM, that's what was actually happening. My heart rate would jump to say 230 and kinda sit there for a bit and then right back to where it was.

You can kinda tell by those pictures (which, unfortunately were really easy to find just by browsing my workouts) the whole thing lasts about thirty seconds and then is gone. During that time, besides the ridiculously fast heart rate, I feel fine. It's an odd feeling to have your heart beating that fast so I always stopped and let it subside, but for the sake of argument, had it not felt so odd, I would have just kept going. There weren't really any other side-effects.

At first (and this sounds dumb) I actually thought perhaps it was my heart rate monitor causing it. Some sort of odd short-circuit or something. That's why I don't have more records of them. Long story short, it's not the monitor.

After I ruled that out I looked up some stuff, sort of surprisingly most of the stuff I found wasn't that alarming. Have your doctor check it out, and if they say it's nothing, then don't let it bother you. So, because this started near the end of last year's triathlon / running season I just rode it out and when I stopped working out, it stopped happening.

This Year

When I started up this year I was hoping that all I had needed was some rest and maybe some good healthy living. I had taken some time off to fully recuperate, I had adopted a different eating plan, and a different sleeping plan. At first everything was great - and then it came back. Same deal, only during some workouts, and not really easy to pin down. On the plus side it was pretty infrequent

Last Month

A couple of weeks ago I was out for, no kidding, an easy run and it happened. So I stopped, and then I sat, and sat. I had been sitting long enough that my breathing had eased, I wasn't even sweating anymore. I felt fine, except my heart was racing. I had no monitor on, so I counted the beats manually manually, 230+. 5 minutes had gone by, and I was about two miles from work, so I just started walking. I figured it would stop soon enough and then I'd trot back.

I got back to work and it was still going on, we're 30 minutes into this by now. It's hard to paint this picture. I'm not breathing hard, I'm not dizzy or sweating, my heart rate is really high, but it's not actually beating that hard. You know when you're really working hard and it's super easy to find your heart rate, but when you're not you kinda have to focus to get a good read. That's how it was for me, if I stopped walking and closed my eyes I could feel that little bugger thumping away, way too fast.

I got changed into my work clothes, all ready to call it in and head to a doctors office and then - bam, it's gone. All the way down to 60. Because I feel absolutely fine, I elect to just call my wife. I ask her to please make an appointment, and reassure her I'm fine. On the phone she sounds, understandably, distressed. She gets an appointment for a couple of days away.

The Appointment

The appointment starts like any other. Get called back, weight, blood pressure ("I need to take that again...that's better" - I've got a little bit of white coat syndrome.) The nurse asks me more details, I tell her the deal, she says "230! - Are you sure?!" Yep, I've even seen it on a heart rate monitor. She's a little surprised, and says "good luck!" on the way out.

The doctor comes in, he's less impressed. He listens to my story, asks some questions. He then draws some pictures about how your heart works, and the various sort of heart rate problems people can experience and what happens that causes them. He's got some ideas, but wants to run some tests. He's thinking he's going to send me home with an event monitor. Given that this only happens when I'm exercising, and not every time, I'll need one for about a month. But first an EKG.


If you've never gotten one, it takes longer to get hooked and unhooked than it does to take the test. 10 seconds - tops. Very underwhelming. The results do not indicate a well known, and detectable, issue. So that's good.

What's Next

So he's for sure signing me up for the monitor. I ask him some basic questions

  • Assuming we decide we know what's going on, what sort of treatment am I looking at? He doesn't really want to commit, but it might be nothing and we don't really do anything, or it might require surgery to repair some messed up electrical pathways
  • Should I stop exercising, or at least dial it back? He almost laughs, but holds it back. No, don't stop exercising. At this point that's probably not at all helpful.
  • So, is it serious, or should I try not to worry about it and just run through it? Again, almost a laugh, no don't run through it.
So I went and got my monitor. It's meant to be worn all the time, and has a little button that, when I notice this happening, I should press and it will basically do a little EKG. I then call a number, hold the thing up to the phone and it transmits it, modem style. Super Retro.

I've been wearing it for about a week, no event so far. This happens, by far, the most often when running, and in the last week I've only run three times. Next week the runs start to pick up again, so we'll see. While it's super unpleasant to have these little episodes, it would be better to know what's going on than to just hope they aren't mini heart attacks and ignore them. I have 22 more days to get some results.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Gosh. It's hard to believe the bike crash was 2 years ago. Time flies.

It's good that you're checking into your heart. Keep me posted.