I was in my early teens the first time I remember my heart racing uncontrollably. I was terrified. I thought I was dying. I told my mom. We made an appointment with my pediatrician which then lead to an EKG (electrocardiograph). Of course, nothing was captured on that EKG. I was told to stay away from caffeine, keep a journal of episodes, and follow up as needed. Nothing else was pursued.
I was healthy from what everyone could tell, but every once in a while my heart would race, I would feel light headed, nauseated, short of breath. It wasn’t until I was 20 that the episodes became more frequent and intense. I was in my first semester of nursing school, I had started running for exercise and stress relief. The episodes lasted longer and more intense, i went to see my family doctor, she then referred me to a cardiologist.
I was given a heart monitor to wear for a week in hope to capture one of the episodes. Sure enough, I was out for a run in downtown Indianapolis when my heart began racing. This was an intense episode, I almost passed out on the street! I made it back to my apartment transmitted my recording. Within an hour I was talking to the cardiologist on the phone with an appointment the next day and more tests scheduled.
I was freaking out! I thought for sure I was going to die! I can be very dramatic!
After EKGs, echocardiogram (heart ultrasound), treadmill stress test, cardiac catheterization, and an Electrophysiology testing- I was diagnosed with atrial tachycardia that was caused by the electrical pathway in my heart misfiring resulting in a inefficient heart beat that would reach 200+ beats per minute.
The atria is the top part of your heart, divided into 2 chambers (right and left). The ventricle is the bottom part, divided into 2 chambers (right and left). Blood starts in the right atrium(top) then flows to the right ventricle (bottom). From here the blood flows to the lungs to pick up oxygen. From the lungs the oxygenated blood flows to the left atrium (top) then to the left ventricle (bottom). From the left ventricle the blood is pushed out to the body with the oxygenated blood. The electrical pathway of the heart controls when the squeezes, pushing the blood through the heart.
So for me, the electrical pathway was misfiring causing the top part of my heart to beat and squeeze too fast, resulting in not enough blood entering each chamber. Which is why I would get lightheaded, nauseated, and short of breath. I didn’t have enough blood getting to my body!
I was put medication to help prevent the arrhythmia (irregular heart beat). Which worked well for a time, but after 4 years of being medication the medication wasn’t controlling the arrhythmia as well. The episodes were increasing in frequency and would last for for extended period of time. In 2009 I went back into The electrophysiology lab to have a cardiac ablation. This procedure uses heat to disrupt the electrical pathway that is misfiring.
It has been almost 10 years since my cardiac ablation, I still have an arrhythmia at times but the episodes are very infrequent and only last seconds!
Exercising brought attention to this problem. Exercising did not cause the problem. When you exercise, you become very familiar or “in-tune” with the way your body feels. When you are in-tune with your body, you are able to identifying symptoms or problems earlier. And although my heart has electrical issues, the muscle is strong!
My hope for telling you all this is that you will be encouraged to exercise because it is good for your body in so many ways and that if you are experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, fast or irregular heart beat you will call your doctor today!