Abnormal heart rate question

by PurpleDog   July 17, 2014  

More questions from me... I'm full of 'em!

This one's to do with heart rate...

I'm 49, reasonably fit, and I have a fairly low resting HR in the 40s these days, and flat out all-effort max in the low 180s, maybe high 170s now as I've not seen 180 for a few years! 10 years ago I did have a 24 hour raised HR (it stayed at 165 after a football match) and following that I had a load of investigations that showed up nothing apart from a leaky valve, which wasn't considered serious enough to need any treatment.

Over the last 10-15 years or so, since I've been using HR monitors, I've seen a fairly common anomaly, both running back in the days when I still could, and cycling, where early in the session the monitor (and this has been true with about half a dozen different ones over the years) reports my HR way over my maximum... anything from 190 to 240, most commonly in the 195-220 range. I can sometimes (but not always) feel a hard to describe 'odd' feeling in my chest at these times - no pain, just something subtly different to normal.
Today, in the heat and humidity (27C/80F) it was showing over 180 for a total of 5 minutes in 4 separate sections all in the first 12 minutes of riding, and I did feel unreasonably breathless at the time - no hills, no racing, just normal riding. After that it returned to normal (well, given the conditions and my lack of activity recently it was higher than I'd like, but 'normal' as in the 150s and 160s, and i tired rather quickly.

Last year I took HR traces from Sporttracks to my doctor, described the issue, described my mild awareness of symptoms, and showed the traces to illustrate what I meant. He instantly latched onto faulty monitors (all 6 of them?!) and couldn't be persuaded otherwise. He showed no inclination to do anything, no concern, and that was that.

From the reading I've done, this sounds like Atrial Fibrillation... if any of you have experienced similar occurrences and referred this to the medical profession, is the general response "go away, there's nothing to get excited about", or do some take it more seriously? If so, what outcomes have you had?

Cheers,
Dave.

9 user comments

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You would certainly warrant an extended HR monitoring device for anywhere between 1-7 days given your symptoms. The issue would be that those devices (medical) are not really designed to withstand the rigours of vigorous exercise/profuse sweating.

Certainly with your past history of a raised heart rate, I am surprised that it wasn't taken more seriously.

If you think it is Atrial fibrillation, then feel for your pulse when it happens. Even with a high pulse rate, the normal heart beats regularly. With atrial fibrillation it is very erratic/irregular. So rather than blip-blip-blip, it goes blip---blip-blip-----blip.

You are also allowed to ask to see a different GP if you feel you current one is not taking you seriously.

posted by indyjukebox [48 posts]
18th July 2014 - 0:10

3 Likes

Could be AF, could be something more or less serious (SVT etc). AF itself is worth knowing about, because sometimes it's curable, other times we can manage (reduce) risk of stroke etc.

See a doctor, get a holter monitor / 7 day monitor. Make sure you get the bigger ECG dots, the ones with little metal nipples / poppers on them are good (they stay on better), plus a few spares. An event recorder - where you press a button when symptomatic - is also a good thing.

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [586 posts]
18th July 2014 - 7:56

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PJ McNally wrote:
Could be AF, could be something more or less serious (SVT etc).

I'm a fool! I meant SVT, not AF from the reading I'd done - that'll teach me to type late at night when I should be sleeping!

posted by PurpleDog [37 posts]
18th July 2014 - 9:04

1 Like

It could be the monitor giving a double reading but you wouldn't have symptoms and your HR would only have been 90 bpm for those 12 minutes of riding. Almost certainly an SVT of some sort. Less likely to be AF (technically an SVT itself). IIRC the commonest variant reported in athletes like this is Wolf-Parkinson-White and there is often a subtle sign of this on your ECG (basic heart trace) even when your heart rhythm is normal.

The bottom line is that 1) there is no excuse for your GP not to arrange an ECG at least. They are usually available at the surgery itself (assuming you're in the UK). 2) As the previous comments state, it would certainly not be unreasonable to get a 24 hour ECG either via the GP or after a cardiology referral. If I were in your shoes, I'd be asking for an opinion from a second GP and a cardiology referral when you get in there.

posted by bikeclips [3 posts]
18th July 2014 - 10:23

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Doctors can do my head in... I get it, I do, they spend most of their days seeing people with nothing wrong with them...it has to skew their viewpoint.

However, from what you'd described, I'd have expected further investigation.

I'd ask for a second opinion at this stage.

posted by Jimmy Ray Will [278 posts]
18th July 2014 - 11:05

1 Like

Years ago I had similar symptoms described here to what I used to experience i.e. increased HR and an uncomfortable feeling for the first 5-10 minutes of a workout. Medical tests revealed nothing. What 'cured' me was applying cardio gel to my HRM strap. Now, I still feel lousy when I start a workout but my HR rises gradually then remains level within my target zone - no spikes, no dips (apart from efforts and recovery phases).
I am age 55, resting HR 35 and recently diagnosed as asthmatic.

posted by tiddy [1 posts]
18th July 2014 - 14:31

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Resting HR 35 or 40? Yikes. Mine is about 50 and I'm quite proud of that...

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [859 posts]
18th July 2014 - 14:57

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As tiddy says, check that the problem isn't simply that your HRM is "dry" at the start of rides, and hence giving bad readings. Wet the strap before putting it on or, even better, use something thicker. My garmin HRM can sometimes give daft high readings at the start of rides too if I forget to wet it. I would have thought that if your heart really was going to 240 that you'd *really* feel it - wonder if any of the doctors commenting could confirm that?

posted by Paul J [618 posts]
18th July 2014 - 17:39

1 Like

Sorry to hijack, but recently, 25 minutes into my (hilly) runs, my heart is going off the scale ( I don't wear a monitor, I just know !, ) after 2 minutes rest, I can continue for hours with no recurrence.

Mid 40's, riding forever, usually overweight, normal BP, low cholesterol, low cadence, heavy gears. My resting heart rate is the fast side of normal, always has been.

I ask I expect another round if well man clinic guff from the GP if reported.

It just sounded very similar to your report. I should say I live in the hills, so I don't really warm up, I'm right into it.

All Campag

posted by Flying Scot [538 posts]
19th July 2014 - 10:01

1 Like