Heart Palpitations

Disclaimer: I see my primary doctor on Feb 5.

I love my new job working for our blood bank. It’s my job to schedule the bloodmobile and get people on the bus to donate. We have goals to meet each month, based on what the hospitals need, and so far I’ve met goal every full month I’ve worked. (Knock on wood!) I’m out in the community, talking to people about the importance of blood donations and signing up new accounts. Two years ago if you had told this introvert where she’d be working she would have laughed her butt off.

Worrying how blood drives will go is starting to stress me out. I’m sitting here now with a heart rate of 89 according to my FitBit. Also, according to my FitBit, my RHR has risen from 63 to 72 since I started the job in August. (I know FitBits et al are not always reliable in this regard.)

I work with an amazing team and I know my supervisor is not going to let me fail. He is supportive and has told me repeatedly how happy he is that he hired me. I am aware that this stress is self-imposed. My husband says I look for things to worry about. When a drive goes well or I land a new business to host a drive I am thrilled, but when the numbers come in for a drive that is flagging I start to obsess.

I exercise regularly and working blood drives means I do a LOT of walking, so I’m not slacking in that area. My sleep has improved since starting this job. I don’t smoke and I have a glass of wine maybe every couple of weeks or so.

Any advice on how to calm my mind, to know that I am doing everything I am supposed to (as my boss tells me all the time when I ask him what I need to work on) so I don’t get into these states? I know prolonged stress, even for someone who is active, can be detrimental in the long run. Sometimes I’m lying in bed, getting ready to fall asleep, when my heart starts racing.

I never thought I was cut out for sales (Blame that on door-to-door Girl Scout cookie sales, when I remember to this day the nasty woman who slammed the door in my nine-year-old face). I have since learned that yes, I can sell if I am passionate about the product (in this case, donating blood). How do those of you who work in sales, where you have monthly goals to meet, deal with that looming pressure? Even the last week of November, when I made goal with six days to spare, I was beginning to fret about December and January.

ivylass, O[sup]+[/sup]

I am definitely not a doc!

People can get palpitations without there being a connection to stress. You can, however, get stressed enough about palpitations that you make them worse. I’ve had phases like the one you’re in, and I’ve gone to the doc about it because it’s disconcerting. Sure, I was stressed, but no more than usual. Twice I’ve had Holter monitors. The monitors showed my heart rate was a little fast, but…no palpitations. Dang, but I felt my heart pounding! Once I was reassured by the doc and test results. the palpitations went away.

Would you consider not wearing the FitBit for a few days? I don’t think the frequent reminders help and may be making things worse.

As you probably know, heart rate is controlled in part by breathing. When you start to feel stressed, take a moment to focus on breathing slowly (In slow count of 4; hold slow count of 4; out slow count of 4.) When I do this, instead of counting 4 during the hold phase, I tell myself a count-of-four phrase like, “It’s OK. You’ll be all right, Nellie.”

But why wait two months to check this with your doc? At the very least, it might relieve your anxiety to see him/her sooner, and it’s never a bad idea to get a worrisome heart symptom checked out.

When you see your doctor you might want to inquire about propranolol (often sold in the US as Inderal) - it’s a beta blocker sometimes prescribed to help with anxiety-related heart palpitations. It was prescribed for me decades ago for migraines and I noticed that I felt a little less stressed when I took it, as my body was not sending me so many signals saying “you’re stressed!”

Anyway, a few years ago I was under the care of a cardiologist* (nothing serious, long story not worth telling) and he gave me propranolol for managing stress-related pounding heart. It helped - actually I never took it all that often, but I think just having it on hand helped.

Note, propranolol is NOT a psychoactive medication - Valium it ain’t. But it sounds like it might be a good choice for you, if your doctor agrees. Good luck.

*In Singapore, so I don’t know if propranol is used the same way in the US.

Are you experiencing palpitations (i.e. feeling that your heart is skipping beats or racing) or is your concern mostly about your rising heart rate?

Palpitations are a common symptom in otherwise healthy people and, unless associated with other symptoms, are usually not indicative of disease.

An elevation in a person’s heart rate on the other hand may occur for all types of reasons, some serious and others less so. Simply being out of shape or overweight might explain it but so too would things like anemia, heart disorders, overactive thyroid, (predictable) side effects of certain medications and, as you seem to be wondering, also anxiety (and many other causes).

My heart isn’t skipping beats, but it does race, so maybe palpitations was the wrong word. As I said, I exercise regularly and I’m in good shape. I do have asthma; apparently some damage from my radiation during cancer treatment caused it. I am going to talk to my doctor about my options.

Any folks in sales available to weigh in on handling the pressure to make goal each month? That may help me too.

I have no doubt that you are perfectly capable of determining your state of health but, as someone who’s “heartburn” resulted in stress test -> cardiac catheterization -> surgery, I have to ask if you considered leaving a message with your doctor to ask if you should take any action now. February is pretty far away if there are underlying issues.