I have deliberately chosen to node this under “Rapid Heartbeat
”, instead of the existing Supraventricular Tachycardia
node. I did this so that anyone who is experiencing this problem but doesn’t know the scientific terminology can still find out what they can do about it.
It was around 1996 when I first noticed the rapid heartbeat. I was vegged out in front of the TV, when my heart suddenly began to race. I placed my hand over my heart and felt the pounding beat. I tried to imagine what could be causing this. It was as though I had just finished a sprint, but I hadn't moved. I tried to remember if I'd had an excess amount of coffee or nicotine throughout the day. I had, but that wasn't unusual. In the end, I did the only thing that made sense for me to do: I started thinking slow thoughts. In my head, I tried to talk my heart into slowing to a normal beat.
It seemed to work. The beating returned to a normal rhythm, and I went on with my day. Later, when I told my girlfriend about it, she said, "Why didn't you go to the hospital?" I told her that it all happened so fast that it was over before I could have gotten there, and they'd probably think I was crazy for coming in with such a wild story.
Over the following two or three years, the rapid heartbeat became a fairly regular phenomenon. I thought of going to the doctor numerous times, but I decided that there was nothing they could do about it if they didn't get a chance to see it for themselves, and since it never lasted more than a few minutes, it would be impossible for me to demonstrate.
Ironically, I ended up going to the Emergency Room in 1999 because I was experiencing what I thought was a heart attack, but turned out to be a panic attack. The doctor ran all the usual tests, but everything came up negative. I could tell from his demeanor that he thought I was a hypochondriac, or just looking for attention. Then it happened. My heart suddenly began to race, and since I was still on monitors the alarm went off. The doctor rushed in, and looking dumbfounded asked me what was going on.
"Oh, it's nothing. My heart just does that from time to time. It doesn't seem to be a big deal", I said.
The doctor disagreed, and I was taken via ambulance to a hospital that had an expert cardiology staff. After monitoring me in the Emergency Room for several hours, the doctors there concluded that I was most likely suffering from a panic attack, but they added that the heart monitor indicated that I had a tachycardia. According to the print-out they had, my heart rate had jumped from around 90 beats a minute to over 190 beats a minute while I was in the previous hospital.
In the end a cardiologist recommended that I have an electrophysiology study and, if necessary, radiofrequency catheter ablation. He assured me that my condition was not life threatening, but that it would almost certainly get worse over time. The worse case scenario, he said, is that one day the heart will beat so fast for so long that it will no longer pump blood efficiently, and I could pass out. While this isn't dangerous in itself, it could be if I happened to be driving or something when it occurred.
So, in part because I wanted to nip the thing in the bud, and in part because I was still having frequent panic attacks and the concern about my heart wasn't helping, I decided to have the study and the procedure. The whole process was a 2-hour, out-patient procedure, and my heart hasn't beat irregularly in two years. The success rate of the procedure is very high, and the risks are very low, so I highly recommend it to anyone who suffers from this condition.