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 Posted:   Aug 17, 2013 - 9:14 AM   
 By:   TominAtl   (Member)

On June 11th of this year I got the scare of my life. My heart began beating very rapidly at different intervals, lasting up to 10 or more seconds at a time, on that Tuesday morning. Sometimes at rest, sometimes while walking, or just standing up. It felt like a fish flopping around in my chest and it was racing while beating, then would abate. And then it would stop and then happen again. It got to the point that while at work that I thought I would pass out so I told my boss about and I went to Piedmont Hospital shortly after lunch. I was afraid that I was potentially having a heart attack.

They pretty much wheeled me right in and hooked me up to the EKG monitor. And sporadically throughout the day they saw the fibrillation come and go. To make a long story short, I was kept overnight and had 2 EKG's run, an echocardiogram and a stress test, not to mention blood tests, all to determine whether or not I had or was experiencing a heart attack or had heart disease. All tests pointed to negative regarding heart disease and a heart attack The main suspect was atrial fibrillation, which is basically an abnormal heart rhythm that does not pump the blood normally due to faulty electrical impulses to the heart. If untreated it can lead to blood clots to form thus inducing a stroke or heart attack. Treatable but with medication to slow and alter your heart rhythm. Better than heart disease or heart attack but not a fun possibility at my still relatively young age.(no, not 50 yet)

I was released the next day afternoon, but not alone. An heart event monitor was to be my constant companion for 30 days. It would record my heart beat at all times, except while in the shower. A diagnosis would be forthcoming shortly after the results of the event monitor were reviewed.

My irregular heart beat abated some a week later but it still occurred from time to time, along with a sense of unease, anxiety and a weird feeling in my chest, something akin to a "tickle" where I wanted to cough but had no congestion. It felt like my heart wanted to do something like fibrillate or skip but not do it. This issue was constantly on my mind.

I was told 2 weeks later to stop taking the beta blocker because it seemed that the fast irregular heart beats did not follow the atrial fibrillation pattern. I did feel better after I stopped taking it but the anxiety and unease continued, as did the "tickle". The fibrillation came and went still. This was now in July.

(side note:I do have a family history of heart disease on my dads side. I have been taking Lipitor and a daily 81 mg aspirin for about 8 years due to high cholesterol and being about 30 lbs overweight. In addition to that I have been talking on and off for a while now Ambien, about 5 mg, to help sleep at night due stress and other factors related to work. And lastly, I had been drinking about 2 glasses a night of wine with my meal, which I knew affected my sleeping habits even further but I did it anyway. I divulge all of this for a reason to be revealed shortly)

After consultation with the cardiologist and researching for myself, I began the following:
1. 30 mins a day/5days a week aerobic exercise, including walking and jogging and combination there of.
2. watching what I eat. Refraining from fried foods, fatty foods, too much red meat, processed foods, etc, and how much I ate at every meal. Added in more fruits nuts in my daily meal. And drink much more water.
3. Stopped drinking wine at night. I enjoy pairing it with food but I have not really missed it and I found I sleep better. No more waking up in middle of the night or elevated heart beats well into the night.

In mid July they finally diagnosed me as NOT having atrial fibrillation but atrial tachycardia: a non life threatening condition where the heart did exactly as explained above: short bursts of fast and irregular heart beats, most of the time reasons are unknown. But anxiety and heart disease could the cause of it. No meds to be taken but was told to continue exercising daily to help the heart get back into a normal rhythm.

Nearly a month later, on Tues Aug 6, the tachycardia came back, almost as bad as it had in June. I was more depressed than worried by then. I was at the point of just giving in to the notion that the rest of my life was going to be this: constant aggravation and worry over this condition. I felt that I had done all I could do. So I scheduled an appointment with my general physician for that Friday.

However, out of exasperation I researched online the one last thing I could think of that could be causing my issue: Ambien. A drug I had taken off and on for a couple of years to help sleep at night. I had some friends taking it and they had no issues. I knew of all the major side effects: sleep walking, nightmares, etc. So literally on a whime I just Googled "ambien + tachycardia...and you guessed it. It has been linked to atrial tachycardia in many patients. I was floored. In addition, to some it cause general anxiety throughout the day as well!

I stopped taking it that Wednesday night. No, I did not sleep well then. But on Thursday afternoon...the tachycardia disappeared! The anxiety disappeared. The "tickle" in my chest disappeared. I slept a little better Thursday night and I felt like a new man when I walked into my docs office that Friday. I went over everything with him and he advised me how he does not prescribe Ambien but only for a few doses at a time and he went over all of the side effects I had were becoming more and more known and prevalent. He said just like Prozac, when people were popping it like candy years ago, many unknown side effects began to occur over time and Ambien is the same way. In fact, for women ambien dosage was to be lowered from 10 mg to no more than 5 mgs and it would probably be done the same for men in the near future.

It's been over a week now and I feel like a new lease on life has been given to me. I am now running then entire time for exercising, have lost 15 lbs in just over a month and all of my blood work looks great. The anxiety that had plagued is still absent. I am clear headed and feel better in the mornings when I get up. In a few months, if my numbers hold and weight continues to drop, I can hopefully get off the statin.

I write this just as a precaution to those who are taking many popular meds but are unaware of the side effects that can and do come with them. Or how many drugs interfere or mess with other things you may be taking for your health. I had no idea that Ambien and other similar drugs can mess with your cardiovascular system, at least for some people. I will say too that researching online about your particular issues can make look like you have every disease in the book, so it is best temper that info by checking with your doctor and pharmacist about detailed symptoms. I feel that all of those damned 60 second + long drug commercials are a huge part of the blame for our society's more and more dependence on drugs. From erectile dysfunction to diabetes to dry eyes its on every day, morning, noon and night. People see it, ask for and are given it and way too easy.

Ok enough rambling. Just wanted to pass this along and if anyone has their own story similar to mine in whatever form I would be interested in hearing it.

Live long and prosper. wink

 
 
 Posted:   Aug 17, 2013 - 10:56 AM   
 By:   Christopher Kinsinger   (Member)

TominAtl, thank you for your thought provoking alarm for those of us who may need this information. Thankfully I am not in such need, but I've been through similar circumstances with numerous loved ones, and information like this is always helpful and valuable to others.

Thanks again, and I expect YOU to live long and prosper!

 
 Posted:   Aug 17, 2013 - 11:11 AM   
 By:   mastadge   (Member)

I actually had a similar situation, but for different reasons. A few years back the same thing started happening to me: my hard would start beating extremely fast for no reason, usually for short times, occasionally for longer. It didn't hurt but it felt very wrong and I worried about heart attack too. Unfortunately it didn't happen at regular intervals, and my doctor at the time was a shit (her first comment when I first went to see her about it: "What's a 25-year-old doing with heart trouble?"), so she took an EKG, and when it didn't show anything declared there was nothing wrong. I objected that of course it didn't show anything, because nothing was happening when she took it. So she took another with the same result. :/ Finally they gave me a portable one to wear for 24 hours.

Turns out I had an arrhythmia, similar to what TominAtl describes except that the electrical signals in my heart were being sent awry by being conducted through some extraneous muscle tissue, which was situated such that my cardiologist feared that the fibrillation might cause my heart to, basically, spontaneously explode. So I was left with the option of being on pills for the rest of my life and maybe die suddenly anyway, or have heart surgery. So I went with the latter, and survived, and no symptoms since, so yay!

But then my heart nearly stopped anyway when my insurance provider, who had approved the surgery, followed up with a letter saying they'd decided it was a pre-existing condition and they weren't going to pay for it and I owed the hospital $100k. And that fight ate another year of my life, but that's a story for a different thread.

Back to the whoops-effects of common medications, the NYTimes recently ran this: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/08/opinion/crazy-pills.html

 
 Posted:   Aug 17, 2013 - 12:05 PM   
 By:   solium   (Member)

Heart issues are extremely scary and it's amazing what the mind can do to you. I briefly thought I had heart problems in my mid 20's. I was so stressed out my chest started to hurt. Ended up there was no problem of any kind, and the feeling went away.

Regarding medication, I try to use as few drugs as possible. Every drug seems to have both benefits and bad side effects. We as a society have simply decided to exchange one problem for another it seems.

 
 Posted:   Aug 17, 2013 - 12:42 PM   
 By:   WILLIAMDMCCRUM   (Member)

Atrial fibrillation doesn't just involve fast tachycardia, but 'irregularly irregular' rhythms. The heartbeat is so fast that only a few beats get through, so the pulse is not in sinal mode, but irregular, and you would feel ill, dizzy etc.. It's treated with certain drugs like 24 hours of amiodarone one-off, or electro-cardio-reversion, and sometimes with ablation surgery to burn out the deviantly firing nerves near the vagus. It needs attention within 48 hours to prevent the risk of patterns establishing.

If you took your pulse during an attack, it'd be not just very fast, but totally irregular. So it would appear you have AT, not AF.

There may be triggers for either AF or AT, and only you can really look for them. Occasionally, jumping into a freezing pool can do it.

If you ever get true AF, don't panic but waste no time getting to a hospital. I've known people with the condition.

 
 Posted:   Aug 17, 2013 - 12:52 PM   
 By:   WILLIAMDMCCRUM   (Member)

Turns out I had an arrhythmia, similar to what TominAtl describes except that the electrical signals in my heart were being sent awry by being conducted through some extraneous muscle tissue, which was situated such that my cardiologist feared that the fibrillation might cause my heart to, basically, spontaneously explode. So I was left with the option of being on pills for the rest of my life and maybe die suddenly anyway, or have heart surgery. So I went with the latter, and survived, and no symptoms since, so yay!



A good result. I'm betting you had ablation surgery to burn out the bad pathway diversion. All cardiology is mainly either electrics or plumbing. But your heart would not 'explode'. The need for the surgery would be to get rid of the problem, which could be debilitating and cause strokes.

But then my heart nearly stopped anyway when my insurance provider, who had approved the surgery, followed up with a letter saying they'd decided it was a pre-existing condition and they weren't going to pay for it and I owed the hospital $100k. And that fight ate another year of my life, but that's a story for a different thread.


'No offense, but that's a good case for an NHS style public medicine thing. Something similar happened to an elderly chap I knew who went to the US and had AF. The bill was horrendous, but because of travel insurance he was covered. In the UK you'd pay nothing. Nothing.

So don't believe those cynical stories about 'NHS death squads'. There are some bad people out there who'll play on fear and ignorance.


Tony Blair, ex-PM of the UK, had ablation surgery during his term of office.

 
 Posted:   Aug 17, 2013 - 12:58 PM   
 By:   WILLIAMDMCCRUM   (Member)

Heart issues are extremely scary and it's amazing what the mind can do to you. I briefly thought I had heart problems in my mid 20's. I was so stressed out my chest started to hurt. Ended up there was no problem of any kind, and the feeling went away.

Regarding medication, I try to use as few drugs as possible. Every drug seems to have both benefits and bad side effects. We as a society have simply decided to exchange one problem for another it seems.


The OP had a condition. He didn't imagine it.

 
 Posted:   Aug 17, 2013 - 1:04 PM   
 By:   TominAtl   (Member)

Atrial fibrillation doesn't just involve fast tachycardia, but 'irregularly irregular' rhythms. The heartbeat is so fast that only a few beats get through, so the pulse is not in sinal mode, but irregular, and you would feel ill, dizzy etc.. It's treated with certain drugs like 24 hours of amiodarone one-off, or electro-cardio-reversion, and sometimes with oblation surgery to burn out the deviantly firing nerves near the vagus. It needs attention within 48 hours to prevent the risk of patterns establishing.

If you took your pulse during an attack, it'd be not just very fast, but totally irregular. So it would appear you have AT, not AF.

There may be triggers for either AF or AT, and only you can really look for them. Occasionally, jumping into a freezing pool can do it.

If you ever get true AF, don't panic but waste no time getting to a hospital. I've known people with the condition.


You are correct and as stated before, I was diagnosed with atrial tachycardia and not a-fib. My father has a-fib and it is hereditary in many cases. Most people though diagnosed with it are usually above age 60 but not always. But you have to be monitored carefully for the right diagnosis to occur. Ablation is normally not the first option for treatment as it does carry its own risk. A-tach in and of itself is also irregular and not just a fast pulse. It can involve skipping and even missing a beat, thus irregular. I was put on a beta blocker at first as a precaution since a-fib was initially thought to be the case. It took the use of the event monitor to be accurately diagnosed as having a-tach and not a-fib. But what this post is about is not the diagnoses or even symptoms but about the underlying cause of a $9,000 hospital stay: the useof a widely prescribed and commonly used drug where docs are writing scripts for right and left. What is ironic is that not one single doctor with the cardiology wing of this hospital even mentioned or discussed my use of Ambien and its potential side effects. Hell, they even wrote 2 more prescriptions for me to help me sleep due to the level of stress and anxiety I was experiencing. Even the side effects listed on the script do not list tachycardia as a side effect. This and anxiety are relatively unknown but significant side effects that are just now being discussed and more well known.

I consider myself fortunate to have discovered it and confirmed it with my own doctor. The positive effect of all this is that it did wake me up to taking better care of myself and the results are a healthier body and happier mind.

 
 Posted:   Aug 17, 2013 - 1:31 PM   
 By:   solium   (Member)

Heart issues are extremely scary and it's amazing what the mind can do to you. I briefly thought I had heart problems in my mid 20's. I was so stressed out my chest started to hurt. Ended up there was no problem of any kind, and the feeling went away.

Regarding medication, I try to use as few drugs as possible. Every drug seems to have both benefits and bad side effects. We as a society have simply decided to exchange one problem for another it seems.


The OP had a condition. He didn't imagine it.


I was referring to my experience. I wasn't insinuating the OP was imagining things.

 
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