This post is for informational purposes only. Please seek appropriate medical care for any medical symptoms. See website disclaimer for more information.-Charlyce
What’s really making your heart race?
Palpitations should never be ignored. Sensations of skipping or jumping in the chest can sensations caused by palpitations. Many people will also associate palpitations with a feeling of throbbing in the neck or head. Even more alarming, some individuals note chest pain during episodes of palpitations.
After you’ve had a careful evaluation with your physician, and know that a medical condition is not the cause of your palpitations, you should consider what your body is trying to tell you. What’s the real reason for your palpitaitons?
How to Find Your Heart Rate
A normal heart rate is between 60 and 90 beats per minute. Individuals with a high level of physical fitness will tend to have a lower heart rate at rest. Women, especially pregnant women, will have a faster heart rate at rest that typically does not represent any problems.
Heart Rate Variability is a measure of how the heart rate changes with breath. This exciting topic is the next step in wellness, as it is a valuable way to measure how well the Autonomic Nervous System is working.
You can easily check your heart rate with no fancy equipment.
Basic Pulse Measurement
- Set a timer for 15 or 30 seconds
- Use the forefinger and middle finger of your non-dominant hand (the hand you don’t write with) to find the pulse on the opposite wrist.
- The Radial Pulse is located on the wrist on the same side as your thumb.
- If you do not initially feel a pulse, try using less pressure.
- At the end of the timer, multiply by 4 if you used 15 seconds, by 2 if you used 30 seconds
- #beats in 15 seconds X 4=heart rate per minute
- #beats in 30 seconds X2=heart rate per minute
Using A Pulse Oximeter
A pulse oximeter, which is available online and in stores, uses infrared light to measure the color of red blood cells. This is allows for measurement of oxygen content in the blood. These devices will also record a pulse when placed on a finger.
EKG, or Electrocardiogram, measures how electrical signals travel through the heart. EKG’s are usually done in a medical office, but advances in technology allow for a simplified EKG to be done with smartphones or similar portable devices at home.
Why Are You Having Palpitations?
Once you’ve had a careful workup with a physician to make sure there is no serious cause of your palpitations, then it’s time to start listening to your body.
Your heart rate ( and heart rate variability) are a great way for you to learn what’s going on with you Autonomic Nervous System.
Activating the Parasympathetic Nervous System brings balance to the mind and body.
Here are 6 Ways to Activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System
Overactive Sympathetic Nervous System
The Vagus Nerve and the nervous system inside the heart (called the Purkinje System) determine the heart rate. This system takes input from the Vagus nerve. The heart rate is determined by the coordination of the Vagus Nerve and Purkinje System. A fast heart rate is one signal that you may have an imbalance in your Autonomic Nervous System.
Why is this important?
The Sympathetic Nervous Systems is designed to prepare the body for quick action. This is great when it’s time to run, hide, seek shelter, or have quick reflexes. If the Sympathetic Nervous system is too active, it creates chronic stress, which can lead to illness.
The simplest way to balance the activity of the Sympathetic Nervous System is with Meditation.
Start your Meditation Journey Today.
Lack of High Quality Sleep
Many of my patients come to the office immediately after being seen in the emergency room for palpitations. Naturally, they may have waited several hours to be seen, and often have not slept. If they went in for palpitations, they are often shocked to feel much worse after being up all night.
When you don’t sleep enough, of the quality of sleep is poor, there are several changes that happen within your body that will lead to an elevated heart rate.
Your brain performs many background tasks during sleep. This allows the two most powerful glands, the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, to sample the blood stream and produce appropriate hormone levels to maintain health.
Lack of sleep creates stress signals in other glands, including the adrenal glands. This leads to the autonomic system diverting energy to the Sympathetic Nervous System. The heart rate will naturally begin to run higher than normal.
There are many ways to improve your sleep. Body Scan Meditation is a fantastic way to relax at bedtime.
Poor Quality Breathing
We take breath for granted. Most of us don’t realize how we are breathing as we go through our days. When driving, for example, so much of the brain must be devoted to safety and awareness of other cars. It seems impossible to take notice if how often and how deeply we inhale.
I consider poor quality breathing as shallow, rapid breaths usually in the setting of sitting with poor posture.
Rapid, shallow breaths that don’t use the full expansion of the chest leads to an elevated heart rate. The organs of the chest will send signals to the brain via that Vagus Nerve that create a stress signal. This leads to a gradual rise in feelings of anxiety and feeling unwell. The brain will then transmit signals to the chest that will drive up the heart rate.
Improve your breathing instantly by improving your postures:
The last thing you want to hear when you are worried about something, or many things, is “Just don’t worry about it”.
It feels likes worrying will help the problem. Maybe there will be a solution if you keep thinking about it?
“Do Not Worry” is one of the 5 Reiki Precepts. This is because worry lowers your mind and body’s energy. Worry is recycling of thoughts without action.
In your life, consider how many times worrying lead to a solution. Likely, it has not.
Your feelings about the issue deserve attention. Consider journaling to help with worry thoughts. The act of writing down what weighs heavy in your heart can alleviate the need to recycle those thoughts endlessly.
Lack of Cardiovascular Fitness
It’s good to stay in a relaxed, open state as much as possible. Particularly, if you’re trying to sleep, eat, have sex or just stay in the moment.
Our bodies are designed to take on challenge. If we don’t activate the Sympathetic Nervous System on a regular basis, it may kick in on it’s own. When it does, your heart rate will go up in an unregulated way. This will lead to palpitations that are uncomfortable.
Walking is a fantastic way to get the heart rate up without too much strain. Unless advised by your physician, engaging in walking for exercise is a wonderful way to raise your heart rate, get your blood flowing and regulate your heart rate.
Exercise will temporarily raise you heart rate, then it will gradually go down over the next several hours.
I love to go walking! Take me walking with you!
Moss, R (2007). The Mandala of Being: Discovering the Power of Awareness. Retrieved from Amazon.