Just when I thought I had a heart of gold, well I like to think I have, it decided to act more like a jumping jack or a runaway train, it was going at 160 beats per minute. I was so used to this happening in the past and had never complained to my doctor about it as normally it put itself right in a few hours but this time it kept going at speed for 3 days. So I thought a call to the doctor would be a good idea! I was right and I had to go straight to the surgery for an ECG. I think my Doctor was shocked, I dont think she expected it to be so high and was so surprised that I had left it for 3 days. She said it was called ‘supraventricular tachycardia’ an irregular heartbeat in layman’s terms.
The problem is with a chronic illness like COPD all you do is concentrate on breathing, it becomes the most important thing in your life and a little thing like a high pulse rate doesn’t get much attention. However, it could have been quite dangerous and it also contributes to your breathlessness, something I had never thought of. Now, I realised its importance especially when my Doctor said, “I’m just going to get the defibrillator, but dont panic its just incase” and I was sent straight to Huddersfield Royal AGAIN! The ambulance took me with lights and sirens blaring and after this experience if my heartbeat wasn’t going ten to the dozen anyway it was now. Even more alarmingly I was taken straight into resus and had more pads stuck to my chest and readings taken. I was asked to do various things such as pinch my nose and blow hard called the ‘valsalva maneuver’, bear down like you need the toilet and blow into various things very hard. They also tried the carotid maneuver, the carotid artery runs down your throat next to the vagal nerve. The Doctor gave the artery a gentle massage with his fingertips to help stimulate the neighboring nerve into slowing my heart rate down. All these procedures were done in an effort to get my pulse to jump start itself again! I can’t really remember much, I was in shock, after all, I had just had a routine visit to my doctors and now I was here! Life can be so unpredictable.
I spent four days in hospital and found out that I was in no danger, although they kept me strapped to a monitor for three days. Two days were over the weekend, so I had to wait for the consultant to come in on Monday before I found out what was really going on. I was sooo tired too and slept a lot. No wonder I had been doing a marathon for three days! The consultant was brilliant and explained everything very easily, he put me on three different types of tablets one was a blood thinner and two different types of tablet to keep my heart rate down. He said that he hopes my heart rate will go back to normal eventually as it has done in the past and said that I will have had it for years and not known about it. Unfortunately, if it doesn’t go back into a normal rhythm itself the next lot of treatment will involve a small operation where they will shock my heart back into rhythm, OUCH!! Until my follow up appointment in outpatients, I have to take these tablets and have a angiogram in 6 weeks.
I am now wondering how much this has contributed to putting me over the edge when I have had previous flare ups, ending in a hospital admission! My breathing is improving noticeably. It wasn’t too great this morning and I took my pulse and it was high again! The consultant told me that this condition is common in people with lung problems and asthma sufferers. That it wasn’t dangerous or life threatening; (could he tell my doctor that I wonder?). So of course as soon as I was well enough I decided to do some digging to find out exactly what caused this. I found this on NHS Choices site and it explains it quite well –
Heartbeats are normally initiated by a small group of cells at the top of the heart called the sinoatrial node, which acts as the heart’s natural pacemaker. Episodes of SVT occur when a problem develops in this system. This causes faster signals to be sent around the heart, increasing the speed at which the heart beats. In most cases, the problem is temporary and lasts for a few seconds, minutes, or in some cases hours. (Unfortunately mine got stuck for days this time)
SVT is usually triggered by extra heartbeats (ectopic beats), which everyone has. It may also be triggered by:
- some medications, including asthma medications, herbal supplements and cold remedies
- drinking large amounts of caffeine or alcohol – (I dont drink tea or coffee or drink alcohol much)
- tiredness, stress or emotional upset
- smoking lots of cigarettes – (that’s not me I dont smoke)
However, in the majority of cases, there’s no identifiable trigger for SVT.
After reading this I realised that it could be tiredness, stress or emotional upset or asthma medications that have been the rout of the problem.
I found a lot of information and I have included the links below but there is mountains of stuff out there about Heart Arrhythmias and these are just a couple –
This piece is very good, it does focus more on young people but also goes on to say that adults also with COPD can also be effected. The medication they are talking about IACs is typically SPIRIVA type meds.
They halt airflow obstruction by relaxing airway muscles during asthma attacks — thereby allowing the person with asthma to breath easier — but inhaled anticholinergics (IACs) may have a heart rhythm–related downside.
But that’s not the only anticholinergic-related research out there. Some raise concern about IACs and heart risk in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).