Scary High Heart Rate, Need Answers

Posted , 4 users are following.

It all started about 2 years ago when I was pregnant with my son. One day I started to notice that my heart rate was higher than I felt it should be. At my appointment I spoke to my OB who checked it and said it was 120. She sent me to emergency department where they did an ekg and some blood tests. Nothing showed up aside from the heart rate being elevated. Having been diagnosed with panic disorder 5 years earlier, they assumed it was anxiety and sent me home with the assurance that it would most likely resolve after the baby was born.

Fast forward a couple months and after dealing with this all for that long, my new son came into the world. The next morning I woke up and realized my heart rate was only in the 60s. I was so happy! I thought I was on the fast track to getting my life back. However, the happiness didn't last as later that same day I realized I was feeling overly tired and weak, which I attributed to having just given birth without pain relief the day before. I asked the nurse to hook me up to the monitors and when she did my HR was in the 50s. She assured me that this was normal, but by then it wasn't normal for me and it felt strange. A couple days later my fast heart rate returned with a vengeance.

After returning home with my newborn I quickly realized that I was developing a pretty severe case of post-partum depression. I wanted nothing to do with my baby, and I felt horrible for feeling that way. I knew he wasn't the problem and that for some reason, my brain was attributing him to all the horrible things I had gone through while I was pregnant. (I had severe morning sickness and lost over 40lbs throughout the pregnancy, landed in the E.R. with severe dehydration several times and became anemic. The HR issue was the icing on the cake.) I knew that I needed help for the things I was going through and sought out a doctor to get myself back on track.

During the first few visits with my doctor we discussed all of the things I was experiencing. She felt that a lot of the HR problem could be caused by the depression and anxiety I was dealing with since having my son. She immediately upped my dose of zoloft and added klonopin to help me cope with the panic attacks I was having everytime I tried to hold my baby. My anxiety levels immediately made a drastic change for the better and I was finally able to start really bonding with my son, but it didn't fix the HR problem.

A few weeks later she added propranolol to the mix, and soon my heart rate was under control most of the time. She put me on a holter monitor, which came back clean and I now assume this is because I had already begun taking the propranolol. Over the last year, my symptoms have been very up and down. Several months ago the doctor I was seeing moved practices and I was forced to start seeing a new doctor. This doc is not fond of benzos (for good reason) and the first thing she did was stop them. At this point I had been on and off them for about 5 years, so having them ripped away scared me to bits. I didn't end up having withdrawals, but I did end up with my panic attacks back and nothing to help with them at all. At that point the HR issue came back again, but this time the propranolol wasnt working, so she upped the dose.

So over the past 6 months or so I have been going through pure agony. Below are the symptoms I've been experiencing.

1) High resting HR some days (90-100) and low resting HR other days (50-60). I feel this could maybe be due to the propranolol working better on some days than others, but for over a year this didn't happen.

2) Very high heart rate after eating, resting 110-115 and when standing it shoots to 140-160. Most of the day im ok, until I eat something which is usually only at dinner time and the HR lasts most of the night.

3) HR of 120-140 when going from sitting to standing even when I havent eaten recently.

4) Skipped beats (PVCs/PACs) when trying to fall asleep, almost never get them unless i am laying down except for the odd one here or there if my HR drops low during the day. Its keeping me up all night, and I can't get any rest.

5) Episodes of tachy randomly. It will start to go up quickly and hit somewhere between 150-200bmp lasting anywhere from a few seconds to half an hour. Doc said could be SVT, but it goes down to 120s if I lay down while it's happening.

6) Using a fingertip pulse oximeter I have done some self testing and after noticing that when I yawn, bend over or cough hard my heart feels funny for a minute I decided to watch it for a day and when I do any of those things my HR will plummet from 100s to 80s in a split second. So i held my breath for 10 seconds at which time my HR was at 125, upon holding my breath it dropped to 62 and then slowly crept back up to the low 100s after.

7) Severe, debilitating panic attacks that also raise my HR and usually send me to the hospital.

So scared that something might be seriously wrong with my heart and want to know other peoples opinions. A little background info below...

I am a 27 year old female, about 180lbs (overweight)

I have had 2 children, the first pregnancy was uneventful, the second a nightmare.

I get migraines, GERD and had my gallbladder removed shortly after the birth of my second child.

Currently I am taking propranolol and cymbalta.

My maternal grandfather died after several heart attacks due to congestive heart failure and my biological father has coronary artery disease.

As for testing i have had 2 holter monitors which showed nothing but sinus tach, and an event monitor for 2 weeks that was clean, but i didnt have any episodes while wearing it. I have had several ekgs and docs say they all look normal.

My bp is always under 120/70 and usually closer to 90/50 even before propranolol was started.

Been tested for liver, kidney, thyroid, diabetes, electrolytes etc. All clean.

Had chest xray done and no sign of enlarged heart.

I smoke about a pack a day, no alcohol or street drugs.

I have a history or panic attacks and dehydration.

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6 Replies

  • Posted

    Hi Judahsmommy,

    It sound to me that Anxiety along with your panic attacks could be causing your symptoms. I'm no specialist but from experience Anxiety when it grips you can be awful. It does transmit into physical symptoms which make the heart and head race.

    I have learnt to recognise the onset of an Anxiety attack and make a special effort to slow down, calm down, sit down and take slow deep breaths. After a few minutes I normally calm and relax and my heart rate returns to normal.

    With all the tests you have had done, someone would have picked up a heart issue if you have one I'm sure. 

    Have you reasurched the drugs you are taking, could they be adding to or causing some of your symptoms?

    The best thing you can do is quit smoking, it doesn't matter how you do it, just focus and do it. How much do you value your health and future, keep that in mind whilst quitting.

    Dehydration give some low blood pressure, as soon as I drink my by rises.

    Eat a healthy diet and stay active will help the heart for the future. There are healthy heart foods to eat and you can receive great advice if you search BHF.

    Im no doctor, if in doubt keep going back to the GP who will help.

    Good luck. 


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    • Posted

      Thank you for your opinions. They are very reassuring. Ive been told a lot that its anxiety, but hard to comprehend that something so invisible can cause so many real and scary symptoms. I agree with the quitting smoking and although I know logically that the chemicals in cigarettes only worsens anxiety, when in the midst of any stress I feel soothed by it. For a little bit anyway. I wont lie, though...i know that the fact that I smoke absolutely adds to my heart anxiety. Its a risk factor for heart disease, so when my hearts being funny those things go through my mind.
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  • Posted

    Hi there, I’m no doctor but it sounds like Your symptoms are triggered by anxiety.  Try to relax and quit smoking.  I smoked for years and I had to quit on because I started having severe chest pains, breathing problems and headaches.   

    Hope you feel better

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    • Posted

      Any tips on quitting? Ive been told by doctors not to quit cold turkey because it could aggrivate my already sensitive heart and mess with my anxiety. Ive tried the gum but it left sores in my mouth. I have tried the inhaler, but it made my lungs burn oddly. I havent tried the patch because the idea of a medication going through my skin sends me into an anxiety attack and because i know that if i do want to smoke i cant while im wearing the patch or i could overdose on nicotine.
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  • Posted

    I'm so sorry to hear you have been going through this :-( I think your cardiologist should do an echo cardiogram to see how the heart is looking. I recently had a lot of the same symptoms that you are having. I thought I had generalized anxiety disorder- I was having panic attacks left and right, felt anxious and high HR for no reason (I'd be just laying down or something). Do you ever notice it is worse lying down ?? ..I ended up having pericarditis (inflammation of the pericardium in the heart) which caused a little bit of fluid around the heart. I'm not 100% sure what caused it, it was most likely a virus (they suspect mono).. but I've read that ALOT of things can cause Pericarditis, even stress. I'm not saying this is definitely what you have, but you should definitely get more thorough imaging done on your heart. Keep advocating for yourself and listening to your body, you need to make sure your heart and whole body in general is healthy ! ??

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    • Posted

      Pericarditis? That's something that hasn't been explored yet. I am hoping the cardiologist will do an echo, but I know they are planning to do a tilt table test for POTS since it all started while I was pregnant. Theyve done chest xray to rule out pregnancy induced cardiomyopathy but would pericarditis show up on an xray?

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