Do you ever feel that your heart is pounding, skipping, or racing so fast that you’re certain it will explode from your chest at any moment? It is quite frightening but it’s how many people describe the experience of heart palpitations. In the most literal sense, palpitations are simply an awareness of your heart beating, with the most familiar trigger for palpitations being heavy exercise, such as when you pedal extra hard to the summit of a hill. But as it did to me, it happens in other ways such as stress, anxiety, panic or even dehydration and it can be quite frightening.
My mum and dad were both long-lived (94 and 97) but they both passed away in recent years. They lived a good way from me and I had to travel a long-distance to see them as often as I could. They had good, healthy lives but the last few months for each of them weren’t the best.
I did everything that I could to care, and I thought that I was coping well, that was until I had what could only be described as an alarming experience. It was late at night and I was in bed. I had to agree that I had eaten late – and had a few glasses of wine, so my heartrate was up in any case as I was still digesting my food, but being as I am very conscious of my body I started for whatever reason to listen to my, by then ‘loud’ heartbeat.
The longer I listened, the louder and faster it got. Eventually, it got completely out of control and I thought that I may be having a heart-attack or something like that. I was alone at the time (wife away babysitting) and so I jumped into my car and drove as fast as permissible to my local hospital.
At the hospital, they didn’t take any chances, but perhaps they had seen it all before. I sat on a bed in a room with a monitor attached. Every so often a nurse would come and check what was happening. I thought that they would give me some medication after they took blood to test what had happened to me, but I got nothing. After three hours I got the result that I was all-clear. What had happened they explained was a panic attack. Drink plenty of water and go home they told me. The next day I went to see my doctor armed with the letter from the hospital.
The doctor explained that I must have been stressed with all that had happened over the preceding two years – and all that happened to me was that I allowed my body to take over. To explain: What we have inside us is a thing called the autonomic nervous system that controls all of our involuntary actions (breathing, salivating, digesting our food, flow of blow round our bodies), indeed all of the things that we don’t have any control over – or do we?
To add to my woes, I had allowed myself to get in to a situation that I simply didn’t understand whereby the more I listened to my heartbeat, the more that I focussed on it and the louder it got. Same applied to heart-rate. The more that I counted the beats, the more that I convinced myself that it was getting faster – and so it did. And I know that I was dehydrated.
Simply stated, I wasn’t drinking enough water during the day.
Now I am a changed man. I practice my breathing exercise at night (even during the day as well), on the bus, on the train, wherever I have a few quiet moments – and there is a copy for you (see under). I ignore my heartbeat if its loud in my ear. I practice my breathing exercise and in doing so, I keep stress out of my life. Of course I am not a doctor, so if you have a health problem of any kind then, you must seek expert medical help. But if your GP gives you the all-clear than maybe you will find this simple regime helpful.