An average of 600,000 people die of heart disease every year in the U.S. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women. Two out of three women who die from heart disease have no symptoms prior to dying. In this respect, I may be lucky that I can feel my irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) which are one of the symptoms of heart disease.
What My Irregular Heartbeats Feel Like
My doctor has diagnosed me with both Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) and Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs). Thankfully, I have a mild case of both and my doctor said that my particular type of irregular heartbeats are benign and are common as people get older.
I first noticed my irregular heartbeats about 10 years ago, when I started having PVCs. While irregular heartbeats feel different for different people, the way mine feel has been fairly consistent. The PVCs only last a second or two unless I’m dehydrated and have had a lot of caffeine. When I have had too much caffeine the PVCs can last several seconds. I can tell when I’m having one because my breath seems to catch in my throat. About a second after this happens, I feel a strong contraction of my heart.
The AFib feels like a fluttering in my chest and this can go on for several seconds. Some people have described it as feeling as though there is a butterfly in your chest. I have noticed that I also tend to have AFib when I’m dehydrated and have had too much caffeine.
When I was first diagnosed with PVCs they didn’t occur too frequently, but my doctor did lab tests and an electrocardiogram (ECG) which all turned out to be normal. Since I was pretty healthy and was getting regular exercise with no problem, my doctor said we would just monitor it. About three years ago the PVCs became more frequent so I went to see a cardiologist.
The cardiologist asked me about my past medical history and about my family history of heart disease. Both of my parents are in their 80s and neither one of them has heart disease. He listened to my heart, reviewed my test results, checked my pulses and (to my great relief) told me that I was fine.
The cardiologist basically told me what my doctor had said, that my irregular heartbeats were mild and tended to happen as people got older. He also told me that I should do all possible to minimize the AFib and PVCs. He said that I should eat healthy, exercise regularly, and try to avoid anything that would trigger the irregular heartbeats.
Living With Irregular Heartbeats
Unfortunately, my doctor said that my irregular heartbeats put me at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. I have been able to minimize them by avoiding what triggers them. I know that being dehydrated and having too much caffeine triggers my AFib and PVCs, but there are other things that bring them on as well.
Eating too much salty foods or eating foods with MSG, lack of sleep, and high amounts of stress are triggers for me, so I try to avoid all of these situations. While I have been able to manage my irregular heartbeats, I have been told to seek immediate medical attention if I develop chest pain, lose consciousness, and/or develop any other symptoms of heart disease or stroke. So far my checkups have all been normal and I am vigilant about getting them done. I am doing everything possible to avoid having to seek emergency medical attention for a long, long time.
Always consult your doctor if you have any type of irregular heartbeat. This information should not be used in place of a medical checkup.
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