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March 23, 2007 1:03 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to lower my heart rate by Monday?

I'm thirty years old, healthy, slim, reasonably fit but not particularly athletic. I've had a relatively fast pulse all my life -- about ten years ago, it kept me out of the military. I've been checked out by a general practitioner and a cardiologist; I had chest X-rays and thyroid tests and walked around with a halter monitor for 24 hours, and no one found anything worrying. The GP said I have tachycardia, but didn't prescribe any medication or recommend any lifestyle changes. He said I just happen to be "at the far end of the bell curve," but am otherwise healthy.

These days it's slowed down a bit from what it was back then, to the point where I'm able to donate blood every eight weeks without raising any alarms during the screening. Still, if I'm the slightest bit nervous about something, it jumps back up again. Recently I was offered a job pending a pre-employment physical, and as I sat in the doctor's office this morning, memories of the results of my military physical came back. The doctor took my pulse twice -- the second time after having me relax for a while in the waiting room -- and both times, it was well over 100bpm.

I also had a TB test, which needs to be "read" on Monday. The doctor talked to me for a while about my medical history (I honestly explained all of the above), and told me not to worry about it. But she also implied that she'll be checking it again when I come back on Monday.

Obviously, I won't be drinking any caffeine between now and then (I did have some coffee this morning). I also plan to get as much sleep as possible, and generally try to relax. But is there anything else I can do that might bring my heart rate down a bit? Should I skip sugar as well? Should I go for a jog, or avoid physical exertion? (I rarely jog, but it's not unheard of -- or difficult -- for me to do so.)

Any advice at all would be appreciated. I really want this job.
posted by Acetylene to Health & Fitness (17 answers total)
I'm sure others can tell you better than I about how to lower your heart rate over the weekend, but if they don't give you the job because of the physical exam, you might want to consult a lawyer.

See article
posted by Hermes32 at 1:17 PM on March 23, 2007

Deep, slow breaths focuising on my breathing, i.e. consciously thinking "breathe in...breathe out", have helped me lower my blood pressure and pulse rate fairly quickly. Concentrating only on my breathing helps me tune out the racing thoughts.
posted by karmaville at 1:18 PM on March 23, 2007

Holter monitor, just FYI (I'm wearing one now actually!)

Sorry, I have no actual advice other than avoiding stimulants etc.
posted by crabintheocean at 1:33 PM on March 23, 2007

Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can cause an increase in heart rate.
posted by Morrigan at 1:49 PM on March 23, 2007

Second the water drinking thing. It works. (I have a heart rate monitor for spin class, and it does make a diff.)
posted by konolia at 2:08 PM on March 23, 2007

The only advice I would have is to relax and practice breathing. It sounds like getting tested is itself a source of anxiety and will make you a little jumpy.

If you want, you could go pick up a heart rate monitor and practice breathing and relaxing to see if you can get any control over your heart rate.

Good luck, though I think you won't be able to do much in a weekend.
posted by chairface at 2:40 PM on March 23, 2007

Meditation. It usually takes a bit of practice, but who knows, try it out and see if it works.
posted by perpetualstroll at 2:46 PM on March 23, 2007

Low thyroid is associated with bradycardia, and broccoli, cabbage, mustard, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and some of the other brassicas have thyroid inhibitors, such as thiouracil, which do have an impact on animals who consume them. How fast they act, and whether their activity is enough to effect a lower heart rate are unknown to me. You mention you had a thyroid test; if you were on the high side of normal, I would speculate that they might have more of an impact on you.
posted by jamjam at 3:03 PM on March 23, 2007

Metoprolol, atenolol and propranolol are three drugs that are on the shelf of nearly everyone who's ever had a heart attack, a stroke, or even high blood pressure. A single dose will reliably lower your heart rate by 10-30 beats per minute, probably more if you're tachycardic to start with.

Of course, if the reason you have tachycardia is aortic stenosis or idiopathic hypertrophic subaortic stenosis, that dose of beta blocker will probably kill you instantly. (You'd like to think that a cardiologist would've caught either of these, incidentally.)

But instead of trying to second guess your doc, or worse, deceive her, why not just work with her? You believe you're healthy because of your prior workup - if she doesn't, she's going to have to explain why. She's either wrong, in which case you lose the job and an injustice is committed, or she's right, in which case you probably want to know that.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:19 PM on March 23, 2007

I’m useless on the short term suggestions but, if you have the patience for it, some kind of meditation might amaze you in the long run.

When I was a runner I used to keep track of my resting heart rate the day after a workout to help gauge my training program, with a target rate somewhere between 60 and 80 BPM. Over 80 meant that I was overdoing it and 60 said I could work a little harder.

I used to think that 60 was pretty good until my friend, Herb, registered a resting heart rate in the 40's. He was in his early 40's at the time. He wasn’t a runner (or drinker/smoker) but he did a Tai Chi routine every morning for ten years or so... and still does.
posted by Huplescat at 5:07 PM on March 23, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions, all. Ikkyu2, I'm certainly not trying to deceive the doctor, and have been very much up front with her about my medical history. But as for working with her, she's not actually my doctor -- she works for the county agency that's tentatively offering me the job. I've been working as a temp for a couple of years, and haven't had health care or anyone I could call "my doctor" since 2004. Unfortunately, my relationship with this particular doctor is limited to her recommendation of whether or not I should be hired.
posted by Acetylene at 5:35 PM on March 23, 2007

Dude, what kind of job is this where you need to pass a heart rate test? Agreed that this sounds fishy and there could be some legal ramifications if you don't get the job because your heart beats too fast.
posted by rlef98 at 7:58 PM on March 23, 2007

Response by poster: It's a job for a local government agency, and the job has certain physical requirements (lifting, mostly). While I appreciate the sentiment, and will certainly explore all options if I'm denied the job, my feeling is that they've got their ducks in a row, legally speaking.
posted by Acetylene at 8:01 PM on March 23, 2007

"Dude, what kind of job is this where you need to pass a heart rate test?"

Here in California, there are quite a few jobs that require you to have a County Medical Examiners Certificate. If a doctor won't sign off that you meet certain health requirements, you don't get the card, and you won't get the job.

It's perfectly legal and happens all the time. The EMS agency I work for has turned down applicants because they were unable to pass the physical.
School bus drivers/etc are also held to similar standards.

It's called the DL 51, and high blood pressure can certainly bounce you off of the list.

posted by drstein at 10:11 PM on March 23, 2007

I'm slender and have very low blood pressure. My Doctors have told me to drink more fluids to decrease my pulse. So, thirding the water suggestion.
posted by Feisty at 10:49 PM on March 23, 2007

As an aside... I was prescribed beta blockers last year in an effort to deal with some ideopathic but debilitating headaches I was getting. I was told by my GP to expect a 10-15% drop in heart rate and to ease onto the pills gradually, by starting at a half dose and then increasing to the full dose. Two days into this experiment my resting heart rate had dropped to 30bpm, and my 'walking around, but not really exerting myself' hear rate was around 60. A training ride that would have had my heart at 178-185 bpm normally would only raise it to 130. And if I stood up too quickly, I would faint.

In short, I felt like I was about to die. I stopped taking the tablets, on the basis that the headache was at least a known quantity. From what I've read, by reaction was an unusual and extreme one, but they are still pretty serious drugs that alter your physiology at a fairly fundamental level.
posted by tim_in_oz at 3:03 AM on March 24, 2007

posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 10:02 AM on March 26, 2007

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