I find myself writing this after a harrowing week with a member of my family discovering he had the exact opposite problem, an incredibly low heart rate. While I won’t be writing about that here, this experience reinforces even more how we need to educate ourselves about our health. You just never know if or when you’ll find a doctor who will make the correct diagnosis.
As I wrote in Part 1, this post will be about the symptoms of Tachycardia, how a fast heart rate relates to chronic pain, and what we can all do to be better medical advocates for ourselves and others. Keep in mind, I’m by no means an expert, having only gotten diagnosed in April. So I ask you to share your experiences with us as we learn together.
What are the symptoms of Tachycardia? Obviously, a fast pulse is one indicator, but what if you don’t know that you consistently have a fast heart rate? Perhaps, you can feel it in your body as an irregular heartbeat, a racing heart, or as Mayo Clinic describes, “a sensation of flopping in the chest.” You might also experience feelings of anxiety, sweating, chest pain, lightheadedness, dizziness, fatigue, fainting, insomnia, and shortness of breath.
For me, I experience lightheadedness, dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, and chest pain. When you don’t live with chronic pain, you can identify the various symptoms you are having, and ask your doctor about them accordingly. However, as someone with Cervical Dystonia who is on a number of medications, I can’t pinpoint the cause of any of these symptoms. Why? Because most of my symptoms are also common side effects of my medications, I never would’ve thought to attribute them to something else. With the chest pain though, I was in so much agony that I was clutching my chest and bending over, trying every position to make it go away. When I scheduled an office visit to see my doctor, she did an EKG. Since the results were normal, she assumed I was having panic attacks. Although that is certainly possible since I was under a lot of stress, I now wonder if my heart was trying to make itself heard. Screaming out for my team of doctors to take a look at my heart rate for the past 6 years, which would’ve immediately shown them I had a problem. But as you know from reading Part 1 , that wasn’t how I was diagnosed. Like me, some of you won’t have any symptoms, other than the fast pulse, which is why it’s so important for us to regularly know what our heart rates are and comprehend what that means.
What is the relationship betweeh chronic pain and Tachycardia? In my beginning stages of understanding, I can’t begin to do this topic justice. Please read this article on the correlation between Tachycardia and chronic pain. Besides my cardiologist confirming this connection exists, there are additional articles you can find to help you explore this question.
So what CAN we do to advocate for ourselves before it’s too late? Here are my ideas; I’d love to hear yours.
1. Each time you visit your doctor, ask what your pulse is. Remember that anything between 60-100 beats per minute is normal.
2. Take a health journal with you to each appointment, and record what your heart rate is. This allows you to observe if there is a pattern of a higher heart rate.
3. Speak with the person in charge of patient concerns, in addition to the head of the cardiology clinic in your network. Since the printed summary some of us get at the end of our appointments only contains our blood pressure numbers and weight, make a request to have them add “Pulse” to the sheet.
4. Talk to every person on your medical team and customer service to request that all doctors be trained to automatically scan a patient’s pulse history at the beginning of every appointment. This takes a mere 5 seconds, but could mean everything for the patient.
5. Ask for clinics to hang up educational charts for pulse and blood pressure numbers in the area where your vitals are taken. Prior to finding out I’d had chronic Tachycardia for 6 years, I had no idea what any of these numbers meant. We really need to know, and we should be able to rely on our medical clinics to educate us.
My Hopes: Since we really can’t expect our doctors to educate us about everything, we have to be the advocates to point out what changes need to be instituted. My hope is that we all commit to doing this. Whether you have been diagnosed with chronic pain, a heart condition, something different, or nothing at all, these positive changes that need to be put into effect will eventually affect you or someone you love. Be a sponsor of change now! If I could go back in time, I would have educated myself about what those numbers meant so that I had been aware that something else was wrong with me, even though all of my doctors missed it.
My hope for me is to continue to learn how nutrition can help me manage my symptoms and to identify research questions on these topics very few people know anything about. We all play a role on this stage. What will yours be?