Thursday, 5 January 2012

And my heart goes boom boom boom

Anyone who has ever had a crush on someone, or who has had too much red bull, knows what it feels like to have your heart race and not being able to do anything about it.

Usually, palpitations are caused by anxiety, stress, nervousness, fear, shock or physical overexertion and quite a few more things.  Certain medications, as well as energy drinks and other beverages with a high caffeine content, can also cause palpitations.

But what are they exactly?

Palpitation is a term used to describe the feeling of the heart 'racing' or beating strongly and rapidly in the chest. The palpitations are generally associated with three main causes:
  1. Hyperdynamic circulation
  2. Sympathetic overdrive  [apologies for the link, it is the best I could find]
  3. Cardiac dysrhythmias
As I mentioned, anxiety can also cause palpitations in that the heart muscles are affected by the state of one's mind. This means that psychological problems can also cause one to palpitate. When undergoing a diagnosis to identify what is potentially causing  these palpitations, medical staff should therefore consider the psycho-social aspect first and foremost.

When it comes to experiencing palpitations throughout pregnancy, this is classified under Hyperdynamic Circulation.

When you're pregnant, your blood volume increases by up to 50% in volume - however your heart doesn't change.  Suddenly your body finds itself having to circulate one and a half times as much blood as it generally does - which means that your heart is put under quite a bit of stress.  Anxiety and Stress encountered throughout the pregnancy itself continue adding onto the workload, so your poor heart is the one to suffer.

The further down the line your pregnancy is, the more you will start noticing the palpitations - not just when you put yourself out of breath by doing some simple task, but even whilst you're at rest.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: Don't Panic.  It is normal. However, please do mention it to your doctor.  They are trained to know about these things and if they reckon there is cause for concern, they will take it further and order some tests for you.  It is best to know about issues rather than leaving them untackled until it is potentially too late.

Fingers crossed, the doctor will give you the thumbs up, indicating you have a strong and healthy heart.  So, what can you do to reduce the chances of palpitations from being due to stress?

I've been asking myself that question quite a lot lately seeing as I've been getting palpitations on a daily basis lately.  As those of you who actually know me are aware of, I'm an insomniac.  My insomnia is caused by stress - jokingly, I claim to be allergic to human emotions since any strong emotion can trigger my sleeping issues.

Needless to say, I have pretty much tried it all - meditation, exercise, relaxation music, chamomile tea, herbal teas especially designed to help you relax/sleep, heck - even my shower gels are meant to assist with relaxation and sleep!  I have also had sleeping pills prescribed.  Got blood tests done, spoke to numerous doctors.  Still, nothing helped.

Having said that, just because I haven't been able to get rid of my stress-induced insomnia doesn't mean I'm not willing to give it a shot at reducing my stress levels that may impact the palpitations!

So, here are some ideas you can try out if you'd like:

  • Rest - Take it easy, make some time to rest throughout the day - and if you're tired, go have a nap.
  • Talk it out - Whatever is concerning you, don't keep it bottled up - talk to your midwife, your doctor, your partner, your relatives, your friends - to anyone who is willing to listen.  Or else, write [which is what I'm doing right now].
  • Eat well - It is good for both your mind and your body.A healthy diet which includes plenty of omega-3 essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, can actually boost your mood! It is thought that the essential amino acid tryptophan can raise levels of the chemicals melatonin and serotonin in your brain - both of which help you to sleep well and increase them good vibrations!  Tryptophan is found naturally in many foods, including nuts and seeds, which are ideal snack foods.
  • Exercise - Be it a 10 minute walk, swimming or pregnancy yoga, it'll do you good.  Just ensure you don't over-exert yourself.
  • Prepare for birth - Pre-natal classes can do the trick.  In Malta, you can either attend the free classes provided at Mater Dei Hospital, or you can sign up for classes at numerous private clinics.  It'll give you the opportunity to learn how things are done locally- what to expect, what not to expect etc.  It'll also give you the opportunity to ask questions and more often than not, realise your concerns are really nothing to worry about and that you're not the only one with those particular fears.
  • Prepare for family life - See this previous blog.
  • Commuting strategies - The more advanced your pregnancy, the more stressful catching a bus, or a train, or whatever means of transport you use can be.  Most of the time, the moment people realise you're pregnant, they will gladly give up their seat.  Don't turn it down.  When possible, see if you can make arrangements to avoid rush hours, and to preferably get a ride with someone.
  • Learn how to budget - If you don't know how to, it is about time you learn.  Make a list of all the stuff you think you need, and start asking around to see if you can get some items for free, or to purchase them 2nd hand.  You can clicky here, herehere and here to check out previous blogsclicky here to the previous blog regarding financial matters.  Also, this blog here gives you inexpensive amusement ideas for your child.
  • Meditate - Be it a guided meditation [which you can easily find in audio format online, or record yourself reading it out and then listening to it], or just a matter of laying down on your bed with a few candles lit up and relaxing music playing in the background - it can help.
  • Alternative therapy - Reflexology is said to help, as does Massage. However please make sure your practitioner is qualified and has experienced dealing with pregnant women.  Any essential oils used on you need to be safe for use during pregnancy. 
  • Pamper yourself - Be it a night out [or in] with friends, treating yourself to a pedicure, or going to the occasional movie - it'll do you good.  Laughter is the best medicine they say. 
  • Inform yourself - That is pretty much the thought behind this blog.  I research stuff and learn as much as I possibly can, and share the information with whoever wishes to learn.  The more you know, the less worried you'll be.  Setting your own expectations helps a great deal.  Knowledge is power, as they say.
  • If all else fails, speak to your doctor - s/he maybe able to give you pointers, or to refer you to someone qualified, who can help you deal with anxiety.

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