What's the deal with my heart rhythm?
September 13, 2014 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Every now and then I realise that my heart rhythm has gone wonky. I don't feel ill with it, it's just... different. What's going on, and should I be worried?

All answers will assume YANMD / YANAD. :)

If relevant, I'm overweight, with slightly high blood pressure, and I've just been diagnosed as borderline diabetic. I'm 37 and I've always been told that my heart is very strong and healthy. Normally got a resting heart rate around 60-80 depending on stress. Had a bug recently that had it 'resting' at 120 for about 3 days. Now back to normal.

Every so often I realise that my heart rhythm is wrong. It's not because of pain, or impending doom, or discomfort - I normally realise because the beat I can hear in my ears when wearing headphones isn't right.

Instead of the normal
    bomp... bomp... bomp... bomp... bomp... bomp... bomp... bomp... bomp...
    bomp... bomp...         bomp... bomp...         bomp... bomp...
It's regular. It's predictable. It's like it's only beating on beats 1 and 2 of a waltz. The actual beats are at the same tempo as normal, just with one beat missing.

It lasts for a couple of minutes, then I'll realise it's gone back to normal without me noticing.

Is this just one of those things that everyone gets but doesn't talk about, or is something weird happening?
posted by twine42 to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I get that too. I'm neither overweight nor do I have blood pressure issues and I'm older than you are. I do have a barely detectable heart murmur that has never caused problems. I mentioned it to my doctor but it happens so sporadically (once a month or less, for several seconds? But noticeable to me!) that he can't really test anything.

I'll be interests to hear what others say.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 4:54 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

The heart beating out of rhythm (or out of the normal rhythm) is called arrhythmia. The NIH website lists some of the options and indicates which ones are more likely to be serious. Definitely bring it up with your doctor and let him/her decide if it is worth checking out. When my husband had heart issues, they had him wear a portable monitor for a week(? not sure how long?) so that they could see what was happening as it happened.
posted by metahawk at 4:58 PM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have friends and family members with similar issues. A doctor can look at this in some detail and determine if it's dangerous, or if medication will help, or (as seems to be the case with all those I know personally) it's just a thing that you live with and don't worry about. Anyway, doctor doctor doctor.
posted by in278s at 5:03 PM on September 13, 2014

It's probably a good idea to get this checked out, but quite likely it's ectopic beats which are generally harmless.
posted by escapepod at 5:04 PM on September 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I promised I'd never say this about anything again, but Ectopic Beats would be a great name for a Techno DJ...
posted by twine42 at 5:26 PM on September 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

It could be premature ventricular contraction but it could also be something else. It's hard to get a sense of what kind of arrhythmia it is unless you see a cardiologist and get an EKG, so I recommend getting it checked out.
posted by markbao at 5:28 PM on September 13, 2014

Response by poster: Right - point taken. Doctor's appointment booked (thank god for Drs with online booking).

I'm very definitely not self diagnosing, but it's interesting to see that Hypomagnesemia can cause PVC, and can be connected to low vitD (check), protein pump inhibitors (check) and diabetes (check), and can cause muscle tremors (check), depression (check) and hypertension (check).

Once again, thank you Mefi, for being the sane voice that shouts "DOCTORS" in the reluctant patient's lughole.
posted by twine42 at 6:08 PM on September 13, 2014

Yeah, any PCP will probably have you do a Holter Monitor Test. It's a good idea just to do it if you're able to just so they can rule anything weird out.

I have PVCs (pre-ventricular contractions) and I get problems with heart-racing and palpitations. The heart monitor is kind of a pain in the ass, but it's only 24 hours. I avoid caffeine, so if you're a coffee-drinker try cutting that out and seeing if it helps - alcohol too.

My dad also has an arrhythmia and did stress and holter tests. Weird heart rhythms can be normal and can happen in a healthy heart, or can be caused by medical problems or medications/substances. Then if the tests come back clear and it's normal for you, you won't get that "Woah, what's my heart doing? Is that normal?" type of anxiety.

Not a doctor, etc. In my experience mine have been caused by anxiety, low iron, and various food intolerances and medical problems. I don't - can't - drink caffeine or alcohol. If they continue I'm advised to see a heart doctor and possibly explore beta blockers.
posted by Crystalinne at 6:17 PM on September 13, 2014

Are there symptoms associated with these events?
posted by brevator at 6:23 PM on September 13, 2014

What's your caffeine intake? I had PVC which went away when I became decaffeinated.
posted by Rash at 7:10 PM on September 13, 2014

I'll just leave this here.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 7:43 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, as mentioned in hobo gitano's comment, I get funny heart beats when I take cough medicine too.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:46 PM on September 13, 2014

Arrhythmia. My mom and I both have it (we are both fit and otherwise healthy). She tried the medication for it and it made her sluggish so she doesn't worry about it too much. She always gets antibiotics before any dental procedure because it can cause complications or something. I never do. Basically, if it isn't bothering you, don't worry about it. From the sound of things, you have more important medical issues to address. Do mention it to your doctor next time you are there so that it can be added to your medical records and be sure to tell your dentist about it.
posted by myselfasme at 9:48 PM on September 13, 2014

Yup I have it too - PVC and one other that kicks in if I haven't eaten for 8h or more and then start eating (vagus nerve getting stimulated).

Get it checked out but to ease your mind I had mine checked out 3x over the years and it was always nothing.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:34 AM on September 14, 2014

I came to suggest magnesium deficiency. Since you already found that, let me add that if you need extra magnesium, you almost certainly also need calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K. Also, you should research "bio-available" forms of these things. (The most common form of calcium sold as a supplement is not readily absorbed by people and this can be a bigger problem for some folks than for others.) Also, you may need to consider things that are specifically a problem for you. For example, sulfur allergies run in my family and I have trouble with sulfur. Most iron supplements are a chemical form of iron containing sulfur. So I have to specifically look for sulfur-free iron supplements when I need an iron supplement.

You might find that treating these things helps your diabetes. My condition puts me at high risk for diabetes and I have seen some research linking diabetes to inflammation. My condition is an inflammatory condition. The primary thing I have done to reduce inflammation (and the host of problems that grows out of it) is to eat a more alkaline diet and get my tendency towards excess acidity under control. Both magnesium and calcium are alkaline minerals.
posted by Michele in California at 1:48 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Stay hydrated; being even a little dehydrated can make your body chemistry fluke-y and contribute to heart weirdness. yeah, not a doc, how'd you guess? I have a type of tachycardia(fast heart rate) and I have a heart rate app on my android phone. When I was under crazy stress, I ended up having pretty much daily events of tachycardia, and the app helped me document. I wore the Holter monitor and had no tachycardia, of course, but did have to go to the ER, where they got nice ribbons of heart monitoring.

In my case, I am able to kick my heart back to normal rhythm using either a very cold, wet washcloth on my face, or the Valsalva maneuver (use with medical supervision, really) or xanax or a beta blocker. Getting rid of the stress means I no longer have a. daily heart trouble or b. a job.

It's your heart; take it seriously. Deal with your stress.

Diabetes is so rough on your body. Whatever you need to do to address potential diabetes is well worth doing. I have lost friends to the disease, and it's a beast.
posted by theora55 at 9:10 PM on September 14, 2014

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