Once again I fall victim to a mystery ailment.

So this past weekend was exciting for all the wrong reasons. After unloading groceries from the car I was struck by heart palpitations. Or at least I assumed they were heart palpitations. Not sure what they were now because… well, that’s getting ahead of the story.

It’s not like I’ve never had heart palpitations before because I’m overweight and out of shape, but usually they last about 5 or 10 minutes and then they go away. This felt like the same thing as in times past, but they didn’t go away after I had regained my breath. They didn’t go away after 20 minutes, or 45 minutes, or the rest of the night. They kept flaring up over and over and I wasn’t entirely sure after a while if they were palpitations or not. Until I went to bed that night.

I tend to sleep on my sides because I’m too fat to sleep on my stomach. Laying on my sides Sunday night, however, resulted in very strong palpitations that were definitely from my heart. Strong enough that at a couple of points I wondered if I should wake Anne and go to an ER because I might actually be having some form of a heart attack. I didn’t have any of the other symptoms of a heart attack though so I waited it out and eventually I feel asleep. In the morning I felt back to normal until I got up to do my morning routine and the palpitations returned.

Figuring that 14 hours or so was an awful long time to have palpitations, I called into work and sent an email to my doctor who advised that I come into the office and have an EKG done. Never one to ignore my doctor’s advice that’s what I did only to find that my heartbeat was just fine. “Textbook” is the word she used. So whatever the hell the problem is it doesn’t appear to be my heart. So the doc ordered up some blood work to be done, but I had to fast for 12 hours first so I hit the lab on the way into work this morning and had blood drawn. So far it’s indicating that my only real problems are 1) high-ish cholesterol and 2) glucose levels way higher than they should be. Electrolytes, liver, and kidneys were all OK. Just to be sure, the Doc has me going in for a heart stress test a week from this Friday.  Right now she thinks it might be my esophageal muscle spasming so she’s put me on Prilosec to see if that gets it under control. Since Sunday night I’ve continued to have the sensation in my chest, though less intense and less frequently as time has passed.

This whole experience has been both somewhat disturbing (my heart’s freaking the fuck out) and highly annoying (I’m not experiencing any of the other heart attack symptoms). If you think you might be having a heart attack and you check online to remind yourself of the symptoms you find that they’re amazingly vague:

The most common heart attack symptoms are chest discomfort or pain, which lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back; upper body discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach; shortness of breath with or before chest discomfort; nausea; vomiting; lightheadedness or fainting; and breaking out in a cold sweat.

I wasn’t in any pain, the sensation wasn’t comfortable but I wasn’t sure it qualified as discomfort, it was going away and coming back, no problems with upper body or arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach. I could breath just fine. No nausea to speak of, no vomiting, lightheadedness or fainting. I did break out in a sweat after unloading the groceries, but it was a hot sweat and probably the result of the effort. Of course they tell you you may only have a few symptoms and if they last more than 5 minutes you should call an ambulance. I only had one symptom, what I thought was heart palpitations. I’ve never experienced a heart attack before so I wasn’t sure if what I was experiencing qualified. So do I call an ambulance or not?

Obviously I decided not to and probably saved myself both an unnecessary expense and a red face in the process and it turns out I’m probably not experiencing anything all that life threatening, but it has served as a great wake up call to get my shit together and start doing something to lose weight and get my blood sugar under control. It was more than a little scary on Sunday night. I think this may just have been the nudge I needed to get my act together. I’m signing up for Weight Watchers Online as I type.

Man, this is going to suck…

13 comments

  1. Les, the more likely explanation is atrial fibrillation, a very dangerous condition that can result in ventricular fibrillation and possible death. You should see a cardiologist and not enter a major exercise program without his or her clearance.

  2. My fat butt started doing C25K (Couch To 5K) a number of years ago after not having run in 20+ years. It was great, VERY rewarding, and I lost 15lbs actually quite easily. And I have bad knees. It’s one of the best, do-it-at-your-own-pace exercise I’ve ever done. I also did the Abs Diet, which really is more about what you eat then portion control. There’s no stupid counting points, etc. It’s also quite easy (believe me, I’m lazy :))

  3. Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll be looking into them, but I have an excellent doctor whom I trust and she’s pretty confident it’s not heart related. Just to be sure she’s having me undergo a heart stress test next week and has a good cardiologist she can point me to if necessary.

    It’s ironic you mentioned counting points, Jesse, as my doc is encouraging me to sign up with Weight Watchers Online long enough to learn the point system. She knows me pretty well and she thinks it’s simple enough that I can get myself to master it. That said, I’ll take a look at the Abs Diet to see what it has to offer. I doubt I’ll be making plans to run any marathons, but if I can manage to crawl onto my elliptical sitting in my living room on a regular basis I’d be very happy.

  4. Yikes! 14 hours and you send an email? Well at least you’re not rushing into anything.

    According to those vague symptoms I’m having a heart attack, like, twice a week for years. Or not I guess.

    Keep us posted! The world needs you so it won’t tip towards idiocy. :-/

  5. About once a month I get one of those heartburn episodes where you’re sure the world is ending. The funny thing though, is heartburn stuff does nothing for it. MY cure – is to go to McDonalds and have their double quarter pounder grease-burger combo. Then I’m good for another month. One day I thought I’d see what the doctor said, and when he asked me what I did for it, he started yelling, and I couldn’t hear myself talking. Doctor crashed his plane & retired, I still do the Grease-Burger cure.

  6. Glucose levels elevated? Whoa there. I had that same diagnosis a year ago and it turns out I have diabetes. I took the drug metformin once daily from August 2012 until June 2013 and lost 30+ pounds (from 225 lbs to 190 now) and hope to lose a few more. My diabetes is presently in remission as a result of the weight loss. But I do know it will rear it’s ugly head one day and potentially fuck up my shit big time.
    As you likely know, diabetes will lead to multiple health issues including bad things with the heart.
    Being proactive, I decided to get an automatic blood pressure monitor. It has the ability to detect transient abnormal heartbeats. Maybe that would be a good investment for yourself, wether you have diabetes or not.

  7. Do what ever you have to do. Folow your doctor’s instructions. You have a good example of what happens when you don’t by looking at Jay! Take care and keep me posted!!! love you!

  8. As for losing weight; what worked for me was The Hacker’s Diet. It is free and online.
    Late last year I was dropping 2 pounds a week for a period of three months (works out to -7000 calories per week) and, yeah, it did suck but you’re investing in yourself. So it’s worth it, I keep telling myself.
    Had to say “no” to a lot of tasty family baking, eat smaller portions, change my lifestyle.
    Best of luck

  9. Hope your EKG and stress test work out OK and whatever you are suffering from isn’t serious.

  10. The EKG might not tell the story unless one of these events happened while you ere hooked up, and have a care about the glucose, e all get to go, so why hurry? BTW, EKG apps for smartphones seem to exist, might be an affordable way to show your Doctor what’s happening during these events, good luck.

  11. Skip weight watchers buy a decent bike

    While weight watchers will give you a support group, but the weight loss wont last. Any real weight loss requires a change in lifestyle, weight watchers is all about restricting calories, and you can’t maintain that.

    Getting you butt on a bike will slightly increase the calories you burn, and slightly increase your fitness. The benefit is that as you do any exercise your body will start to crave better foods, and you will end up with slightly healthier diet without really trying. This is a wonderful feed back loop, you ride , fell better, eat better, get stronger, ride faster and farther, feel better , eat better…. You weight may not make a huge drop, but it will creep down and at the same time your heart will get stronger and your diet better.

    Not sure what your commute to work is like, but if it is under 12 miles this is a very doable commute, that will make a huge difference to your health. Just, don’t skimp on the bike, I know money is tight, but $600-$1000 will get you an excellent vehicle, especially if you buy used. Avoid bumpy tyres.

    Running is a lot cheaper, but for fat guys like you and I, it can be hard on knees, and hard to keep up, cycling is easier on knees and heart, and just replaces driving, leave the running for when winter makes riding too difficult.

  12. Different things work for different people. But I can recommend one trick I learned – mount a small television (an old one picked up from the curb will work just fine) in front of your exercise machine and connect a blu-ray player to it. Exercise for the point of exercise is boring and this is your chance to gorge on box sets, movies, whatever. Right now I’m watching the 5th season of House. A show that I first heard of… on this blog in fact.

    If you use headphones this is also your chance to watch stuff no one else in your family wants to watch.

    Of course, I ride a bike a lot but the point of exercise isn’t so much to burn calories as to improve condition so you’ll move more the rest of the time. To that end my son is encouraging me to do more weight lifting. Starting small, of course.

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