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Old 11-27-2003, 06:35 PM   #1
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wr6969 HB User
Question Extremely worried about ectopic hearbeats

I was wondering if anyone has had any experiences with ectopic heartbeats. I am a 35 year old male, non-smoker, non-drinker and regularly go for brisk walks on the treadmill on average three to five times a week, walking for about 1.3 miles in 30 minutes.

I was diagnosed with moderate hypertension about a year ago, and was put on a combination of beta blocker (Inderal), Xanax and Valium, the latter two for panic/anxiety attacks (I am a fairly anxious person since the death of my best friend at age 33 of a massive heart attack). I went off this combination because it made me feel depressed and took away my "zest" for life. I then went on Plendil, then Norvasc, both calcium channel blockers. Calcium channel blockers didn't agree with me - they gave me palpitations and a high pulse in the region of the low 100s while resting; this coupled with the fact that my pulse went up as a result of beta blocker withdrawal ("rebound tachycardia") made me feel very uneasy. Six weeks into the withdrawal, I still have the fast pulse, but it's now in the high 80s while resting.

Then about a week ago, I began feeling an "air bubble rising up my throat" sensation. The sensation was random, not uniform in nature. Sometimes I could feel two to three a minute, then go for hours without one. I then went to a cardiologist who 6 weeks ago did an ECG/EKG on me (results were normal) and she diagnosed ectopic heartbeats, and assured me that this was normal and there was nothing to worry about. She also asked whether I took caffeine based drinks such as tea/coffee/coke and I mistakenly replied in the negative, not knowing that the potfuls of Chinese tea I took daily also contained caffeine! I've since stopped drinking caffeine-based beverages. My cardiologist saw no further need for another ECG/EKG nor any other heart tests.

The cardiologist also switched my medication to Diovan, an angiotension-II receptor blocker in the hope that this will regulate my BP better.

My questions:

(1) are ectopic heartbeats dangerous in otherwise healthy individuals with no individual or family history of heart disease? I gather that almost everyone has ectopic beats sometime in their lives, it can come (and go, hopefully!) without warning, and people live with it for decades without affecting their lifespan. The difference is that most people do *not* feel these ectopic beats whereas some extremely lucky people like me do feel it?

(2) will ectopic beats lead to heart disease/failure in the long run?

(3) at what stage do I need to consider medical treatment for these ectopic beats, ie. how often do I have to experience these ectopic beats in a minute for example before I need to seriously consider treatment?

(4) what are the treatment options available for ectopic heartbeats? Are the side effects worse than tolerating/ignoring these ectopic beats?

(5) are there any ectopic heartbeat support groups out there on the Net?

(6) for those who have been on beta blockers and gone off them, and suffered "rebound tachycardia" as a result, how long did you have to bear with this faster pulse? I've been off the beta blockers for about 6 weeks now, and I'm still having a fast pulse. I know it isn't classified as tachycardia since it's below 100 beat per minute, but whenever I take my pulse, I get this uncomfortable feeling! My pulse is in the region of the high 80s/low 90s resting. Exercise of course brings this up (haven't measured how much) but brings about no other discomforts (thank goodness!)

(7) will long term use of Xanax, although at a low dose, bring about a faster pulse and added anxiety when you quit cold turkey? I quit from 0.25mg Xanax twice daily, and 5mg Valium by tapered dosage within a week, after having been on them for 8 months!

I apologise in advance for the long nature of this post (wanted to give a thorough background). Thanks for reading!

Last edited by wr6969; 11-27-2003 at 06:38 PM.

 
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Old 11-27-2003, 10:50 PM   #2
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Re: Extremely worried about ectopic hearbeats

Quote:
(1) are ectopic heartbeats dangerous in otherwise healthy individuals with no individual or family history of heart disease? I gather that almost everyone has ectopic beats sometime in their lives, it can come (and go, hopefully!) without warning, and people live with it for decades without affecting their lifespan. The difference is that most people do *not* feel these ectopic beats whereas some extremely lucky people like me do feel it?
They are not unusual, and they are not harmful unless, in a person WITHOUT anxiety, they are causing symptoms like chest pain, lightheadedness, fainting, shortness of breath etc. etc. etc. The reason I say WITHOUT anxiety is because people who are very anxious often get very hypervigilant when it comes to their heart and they have panic attacks mixed in with their ectopic heart beats and can actually feel all the symptoms I mentioned above even though it's quite normal. Anyway, you're young, it sounds like you lead a very healthy lifestyle and your blood pressure is being put under control...these ectopic heart beats are totally normal and they will not harm you.

Quote:
(2) will ectopic beats lead to heart disease/failure in the long run?
Unless you have extended periods of tachycardia for abnormal amounts of time..like for days on end for months, then yes....but otherwise, no.

Quote:
(3) at what stage do I need to consider medical treatment for these ectopic beats, ie. how often do I have to experience these ectopic beats in a minute for example before I need to seriously consider treatment?
It's not the ectopic beats that need treatment...there's nothing wrong with those. But if you happen to start having something like atrial fibrillation, then you'll need treatment...but like I said before, you have no more risk of developing atrial fibrillation than someone who does NOT have ectopic beats. Ectopic beats are really not a big deal...most people don't even notice them....it just so happens that you do.

Quote:
(4) what are the treatment options available for ectopic heartbeats? Are the side effects worse than tolerating/ignoring these ectopic beats?
If they're happening a lot and they're causing you a lot of symptoms like the ones I mentioned above, then you could be given the same drugs that you're given for hypertension. Normally, though, the doctor won't treat ectopic beats unless there is some real reason for it...like you are VERY symptomatic....but your EKG is normal, you're still able to exercise a lot, you don't smoke, you don't drink, you don't have diabetes, you don't have high cholesterol etc. etc. You have very few cardiac risk factors....

Quote:
(5) are there any ectopic heartbeat support groups out there on the Net?
There are a lot of people here who discuss palpitations all the time....just look down the threads in this particular category.

Quote:
(6) for those who have been on beta blockers and gone off them, and suffered "rebound tachycardia" as a result, how long did you have to bear with this faster pulse? I've been off the beta blockers for about 6 weeks now, and I'm still having a fast pulse. I know it isn't classified as tachycardia since it's below 100 beat per minute, but whenever I take my pulse, I get this uncomfortable feeling! My pulse is in the region of the high 80s/low 90s resting. Exercise of course brings this up (haven't measured how much) but brings about no other discomforts (thank goodness!)
There is NOTHING, I repeat NOTHING wrong with a pulse in the high 80s or low 90s....it's more likely that you're getting anxious from checking your pulse constantly and that's making it go up. Do yourself a favour and stop checking it!!! You'll thank me!

Quote:
(7) will long term use of Xanax, although at a low dose, bring about a faster pulse and added anxiety when you quit cold turkey? I quit from 0.25mg Xanax twice daily, and 5mg Valium by tapered dosage within a week, after having been on them for 8 months!
Yes!!! who tapered your dose that quickly?!!! Benzos are VERY addictive and tapering them too quickly can give you bad withdrawal symptoms which are basically those of anxiety!!! You might have to go back on the benzos and taper them more slowly. Who put you on them for so long?

(Please understand that I am not angry. I'm just very surprised that your doctor would let you be on benzodiazepines for such a long period of time)

 
Old 11-28-2003, 02:41 AM   #3
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wr6969 HB User
Re: Extremely worried about ectopic hearbeats

Hi there projapoti! First of all, many thanks for taking the time out to answer my questions, your responses have definitely put me more at ease (like all my visits to my cardiologist! ). I guess anxiety boils down over time (hopefully!) and I just have to go through the motions of suffering through it. Let me address some of your comments and questions in turn:

(1) I have none of the symptoms you mentioned which could spell trouble. The only thing of concern is that my total cholestorol level is slightly above what is considered "permissible" in today's modern medicine. The ratio is fine though. What is causing the total to be slightly higher is my triglycerides (inherited), which is quite some ways above the "permissible" limit, while my LDL and HDL numbers are good

(2) I'll do a little research on atrial fib when I have the time. I'd really like to know more about conditions such as these so I appear educated when I speak to the cardiologist and can probe them with intelligent questions. After all, they already charge you an arm and a leg, so may as well make full use of your time with them . I've gathered that one avenue for treatment of these ectopic beats is the use of a beta blocker, but this drug has had very mixed results for many people. I was previously on one, and a low dose of 20mg twice daily really made me feel depressed, fatigues and tired - that's the reason I got off those! Ironically, they were initially prescribed to deal with my complaints of a fast pulse (and I recall that my pulse then was only in the region of the high 80s!)

(3) How often do you have to experience these skipped beats before it becomes serious? Mine comes and goes, and I seem to notice (I think) that it comes more often if I'm anxious, edgy or panicky. But when you are experiencing these physical symptoms, they are *difficult* to ignore! Sometimes I can get about 3 a minute, then go for hours without one. Also, exercise seems to keep the skipped beats at bay, so that's a motivation for me to exercise more nowadays . I know discomfort varies from individual to individual, I've read that someone here in the forums has had more than 20,000 of these incidents in a day! But I seem to be uncomfortable when experiencing a "relatively low" number of these skipped beats. Also, do these beats disappear just as mysteriously as they appear? Mine only started about a week ago, and have persisted till today. I hope they can disappear!

(4) As for the benzos, my previous doctor thought that they (Xanax and Valium), in combination with the beta blocker will handle both my anxiety and hypertension, a "kill two birds with one stone" approach, if you will. He kept mentioning that he had a patient who was on Valium for over 20 years and this single drug happened to control his hypertension very well! But as I've mentioned before, this combination was really getting me down, and yet he refused to change it. I then made a unilateral decision to go off them, but I guess I tapered them off too quickly, which could have led to my current predicament. The Valium wasn't too bad - I only had one sleepless night, while the Xanax withdrawal results are apparent for all to see from my postings! But I'd really like to avoid going back on them if possible. Believe me, the temptation to go back to the beta blocker has been so great during these past 6 weeks, but thankfully I've been able to hold it off!

(5) As you've mentioned, I will *try* to stop taking my pulse so "regularly". In fact, I would imagine that in the absence of other symptoms, I shouldn't be taking my pulse at all! I really appreciate you reminding me of this. I promise I will slap myself (hard!) if I do it *consciously* from now on

Thanks again for taking the time for reading and replying!

 
Old 12-15-2003, 03:06 PM   #4
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fryingchairchas HB User
Re: Extremely worried about ectopic hearbeats

thanks to you both for your questions and answers, many of which i have thought of asking but never have, you can rest assured you have put another mind at rest.

 
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