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Heart Palpitations

My Palpitations are making me anxious.

Question

I’m 23, and after three visits to A&E in one month, with frightening palpitations and fainting fits, I’ve been diagnosed with mild mitral valve proplapse. Apparently I fit the standard profile: young, naturally thin, with hyperextendable elbows! I’ve been prescribed Cardicor and told to retum to work. My symptoms – dizziness, feeling heavy and weak, insomnia, pressure behind the eyes, palpitations and ectopic heartbeat – have not eased. So I’m anxious and work is difficult. Can you suggest any altemative measures?

Answer

First let me explain a little about the heart. The heart has two halves, divided by a septal wall, which act like pumps. The right side pumps used blood from the body into the lungs. The left side - the most important - pumps pure oxygenated blood around the body.

Each half is divided again by a 'non-retum' value which ensures that blood flows one way only - from the top chamber (atrium) into the lower one (ventricle). So you have four quarters, with a wall running down the middle and a valve on either side. The valve between the left upper atrium and the left lower ventricle is called the mitral valve. This works through two 'canopies', attached to the base by string: like tendons, which ensure that blood cant retum to the atrium but is pushed out through the aorta (the main artery) to all parts of the body and brain.

In your case, the mitral valve is not closing properly, so some of the blood in the left ventricle is leaking back into the atrium and the output is reduced. As only a portion of the blood is pumped out with each heartbeat. your body and brain are not receiving the usual supply of oxygenated blood.

The brain needs oxygen and glucose to function blood. A reduced supply causes power failure in the optimally and is susceptible to the slightest depletion of brain cells, resulting in the sort of symptoms you describe. To compensate for the lack of glucose and oxygen, the brain sends signals to the heart to beat faster and the lungs to breathe more quickly. So you experience palpitations and become breathless. Even a little physical effort means that the demand for oxygen will increase.

In severe cases, surgery to repair or replace the damaged valve is recommended. Because the valve is deep inside the heart, this involves open heart surgery, which is a serious business and, like all surgery, not with out risk.

Since it is early days, I suggest you give nature a chance. What I recommend below may help you to cope with the situation and certainly can do you no harm. But you must keep in constant touch with your doctors, who will monitor the situation and carry out more investigations if necessary.

Here are my suggestions:

  • Avoid all food and drinks that may nuke your heart race, including coffee, excess salt, alcohol, sugar, yeast products (these brew alcohol in the gut) and very spicy foods.
  • Eat regularly-graze on several small meals daily rather than gorging on one big one - and always have a good breakfast.
  • Try to avoid very stressful situations and manage any unavoidable stress by practicing yoga (but you will have to take care not to hyperextend your elbows) and meditation.
  • Take regular daily walks in the fresh air.
  • When your symptoms are sever practise abdominal breathe which is good for reducing anxiety and includes diaphragmatic movements which help tone the heart. Lie on your back and breathe in and out deeply from your abdomen for ten minutes. Let your stomach slowly rise as you breathe in and fall as you exhale, You shouldn’t use your chest at all. Simply observe the ebb and flow of your breath.
  • Infuse three or four leaves of basil in a cup of boiling water for five to ten minutes; drink twice daily. Also drink two cups of Arjun tea daily. For thousands of years, Ayurvedic medicine has used the bright red bark of Terminalia arjuna to regulate the functions of the heart and it is now being researched by scientists in India.
  • Ask your partner or a friend to massage your neck and shoulders. Use Lifestyle Oil or add three drops of lavender oil to one tablespoonful of sweet almond oil. Relaxing the muscles here should help improve the circulation of brain fluid and blood to the brain and ease some of the symptoms such as palpitations, dizziness and fatigue.
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