Heart Palpatations & Running

Lately, I have woken in the night with my heart racing. This has been happening once or twice a week, sometimes lasting an hour, leaving me a bit light headed and feeling sick. I've ruled out too much caffeine, and wonder if anyone has experienced similar symptons? On most (but not all) occasions I have had a hard running training session the previous evening, but don't know if this is a pure coincidence. My heart rate is fine running. I'm a bit stressed at work, but nothing out of the ordinary. Any thoughts??


  • Make an appointment with your GP and get it checked out. Do it today.

    Its probably nothing to worry about, but its not something you should treat lightly.

  • I have suffered from an irregular heartbeat for a number of years and recently a new irregularity has appeared i.e. instead of the regular. . . . . . beat it becomes a regular .. .. .. .. .. Doesn't seem to affect me physically but is a bit alarming mentally. I also have been told to keep off caffeine and fags but have never used either of them. It does seem to be worse after a training run or exertion and sometimes after a night out when I have exerted myself to be bright and breezy with chat (but can't blame alcohol because I usually have to drive) Currently I am logging my `attacks' along with my activities to see what comes out of it. I have now got it down to the possibility of 1. Exertion 2. Adrenalin 3. Profuse sweating and therefore loss of potassium 4. Maybe stress but not usually my scene. I run well inside Fit for Age marathon times and I have not suffered breathlessness etc. I may visit the quack when I can offer some sensible ideas. Keep talking about it - perhaps it is a common phenomena.
  • I didn't want to spell this out because I don't believe in alarming unecessarily, but here it is:-

    One of the top fell runners in this country recently died as a result of a heart problem he didn't even know he had. This was a guy who could run a marathon in under 3 hours off road with 9,000 feet of climbing in it. He was like .....fit.

    For what its worth my view is that if your heart is playing funny tunes its trying to tell you something. Yes perhaps its only "lay off the coffee/booze/fags" or somesuch. On the other hand perhaps its trying to tell you that a wheel's coming off.

    It takes 30 minutes out of your life to get it checked out by your GP......

    Hey Vrap - you're the tame(ish) Doc round here whadya say ??

  • Simon - I now have an appointment for tomorrow to see my GP. As you say, it is probably nothing, but worth checking out. Thanks for the advice....will advise outcome if anyone is interested! Pussy - I wondered about the adrenalin factor. Oh well, I'll see what she says tomorrow.
  • Yes, do tell us how you get on NB, and well done for not ignoring it!
  • N Blonde ... If your Doc tries to fob you off or he doesn't put your mind at rest, insist on seeing a heart specialist, cry if you have to ... I'm serious, GP's aren't always supportive !!!!!

    I suffered with an irregular heart beat for months without seeing anyone. I eventually saw a specialist and he told me how common irregular heart rythums are and that mine was prob down to stress and worry, the more I worried about my heart the worse the prob got !!!

    I was given a 48 hr ECG so they could monitor my heart over a period of time which enabled him to tell what would trigger of an episode, he also offered me tablets which i refused.

    I was told my heart was healthy and I had nothing to wory about, and within days of having that reasurrance the irregular rythum started to subside.

    Do you wear a heart monitor when running ?? get one .... they are brilliant for making sure you don't excerice out of your heart rate limit.

    Also don't let simons story alarm you ... lets face it ... you could get knocked down and killed by a bus on the way to the docs !!!!!
  • PS... good luck with the doctor ... let us know how you get on !!!
  • Heart rate monitor (in bed!)is good idea if only to reassure yourself and give your dr useful information:

    circa 100: faster than you might expect at rest - recent xs exercise (including effects of adrenaline), stress, caffeine, alcohol, fags etc

    100-120: ditto

    late 130s+ - 140+ perhaps I should be going to A&E to get this on record

    I would guess commonest cause of irregular heartbeat in this readership would be:

    a)sinus arrythmia - awareness of the normal beat to beat variation with respiration - more the youngsters

    and b)exercise-related ventricular ectopic beats -heart skips a beat the a big one steps in after a pause - again possibly exacerbated by stress and the other factors but usually quite innocent

    Both fast heart beats and irregular heart beats can't really be fully evaluated without said 48hr tape - so I agree don't get fobbed off

    Waiting till next routine appointement is usually ok - unless you're having funny heart beat at the time

  • Julie, thanks for your helpful message - I'll bear it in mind tomorrow. Hopefully I won't be fobbed off, or have to resort to tears!

    I don't currently run with an HRM, but have been thinking about it of late. Can you recommend a model? May have to drop subtle hints to my sons, what with Christmas coming up and all.

    Let u know how it goes......NB
  • Natural Blonde - Hi

    I have in the past suffered from this type of reaction. In my case it was entirely stress related. Stress is a very funny thing and can effect everybody in different ways, for example the nighttime racing heart was how mine started. Once I knew it was stress, (thanks to good GP) I then used to get muscle spasms in my back instead which have now moved to cramps in my calves!

    I guess it's got to come out somewhere eh? You might like to try one of the herbal stress relievers like Kalms before you go to bed and see how you get on.

    Best of luck at the docs, hope you don't get fobbed off.
  • There are so many heart rate monitors on the market ... and they range dramatically in price too .... have a look on the web ... there are lots of sites and will be cheaper than going to a shop too !!
  • Clearly nuts - Thanks for info. In your case, were you aware of how stressed you were? What I am getting at is that I don't THINK I'm stressed, but could I be sub-concsiously if you know what i mean! NB

    Space-Monkey - When my heart is racing, it is going so fast I can't count it. I'm surprised it can go so fast for so long. At least an HRM would give me facts. Ta NB
  • Well, I've been to the Docs, and she was a star. Although she thinks it's nothing sinister, I'm to go back for a raft of blood tests (apparently a thyroid imbalance can trigger palpitations, as can anaemia), plus an ECG. If they turn up nothing, I am to have a longer spell of ECG monitoring. If that is clear, and I am still symptomatic, I can be referred to a cardiologist. How thorough is that! I was really pleased. Also, it goes to show how running pays off, 'cos apparently I have better Blood Pressure than a 21 yr old, and an impressive resting heart rate of 49. In fact, she congratulated me on my fitness (not bad for a 40 something!). She did say, too, that sometimes these things happen and there is no explanation at all - but at least I will have had my mind put at rest. will keep u posted..... NB
  • Natural Blonde - Hi

    No I wasn't aware of exactly how stressed I was at the time, I had managed to suppress the outward signs quite nicely and felt that I was dealing with it OK. Does your brain race at the same time as your heart, life flashing before you? this may also indicate that it is stress or something similar?

    Sounds like a good GP, hope nothing nasty turns up in the tests, best of luck.
  • Natural Blonde - Hello - I have this similar condition, normally occurring at night when you're resting - sometimes extra electrical connections on your heart (nodes) can fire up and start the arythmia. My case was I had an echosound taken of my heart and it showed a mitral valve prolapse (lots of people have them) and basically the quacks have said even really fit people commonly have ectopic beats and periods of arythmia. It is disturbing and it can feel as if your heart wants to bang its way out of your chest however, in my case they say nothing to worry about. There is a very slight risk that if the irregular beat goes on for a while because you aren't clearing the chambers in your heart of all the blood it can cause a clot to form and pelt off around the body when you snap back into regular rythm. As a result I take the 75mg mini aspirin daily to reduce the chance of clotting still further. I have also found that you are better off turning up at A&E saying your heart is wonky and they see you right away and have cardio speciailists about as the average GP doesn't necessarily specialise in this. All in all you've done the best thing to get checked out - but worry and anxiety when you get the spells of palpitations can prolonge the episode (difficult not to be though!) I am back to running and not worrying about it! One more thing a heart rate monitor doesnt work well when you get irregular beats - esp if it is atril fibrillation because the electric signals don't trigger the monitor....KEEP WELL!
  • Glad to hear your Doc looked after you well.
    Good luck with all the test and congratulations on being so fit !!
    When the palpatations get really bad, i find holding my breath and putting natral pressure on your chests help to bring your heart rate down a bit !!!!
  • Darth Lardy - Hi to u too. That was interesting - thanks for the info. I'm glad you got sorted out. It is comforting to know I am not alone!!

    Julia, thanks for the tip. I tried laying on the floor and raising my legs above the level of my heart but that didn't work! I also tried to slow my breathing down, again to no avail. At least I've got something else to try next time....NB
  • NB,good luck and hope it turns out OK.
    About 7/8 years ago (before I started running)I went through a spell of several months of having bad palpitations especially in the night. I remember waking up many many times with rediculously pounding heart and associated anguish. Being scared of doctors as I am I put off going for some time but eventually recognised that I needed to sort the problem out. Went to see the doctor who checked me out and began telling me a story (which I do not know to this day whether it was true) that Linford Christie was reknowned for having a very irregular heartbeat and basically there was nothing wrong with me. Funnily enough after receiving this reassurance they disappeared. I did not consider myself stressed at the time but it is not always apparent to you and the reality in my case was that I had worked myself into some kind of negative spiral whereby I had convinced myself that I was ill and therefore I was. Anyway, here we are 6/7 years later and having just completed my first marathon last week although funnily enough last night I woke up with palpitations...I think that was something to do with the volume of chinese and alcohol I had last night (always a bad mixture for me that one!)
  • Hi Ian, That's reassuring - thanks. Well done on your first Marathon. I'm contemplating doing one next year - what was it like? NB
  • NB, go for it. To be honest if you do the training it ain't that bad. In some ways I found it no more difulcult than the first half-marathon I did in February. I ran well inside my capability though as had bad cramps at 18 miles, but then 4.34 sets an easyily beatable benchmark for the next one (London or Paris). As the advertisment says, its the pace that kills you not the distance (given you've done the training of course!)
  • Hi all on the thread

    Interesting reading as I too have had palpitations over the last 7-8 years on an off and on basis. They were the original reason I bought a heart rate monitor and have measured 230bpm before now.
    The conclusion that my wife and I have come too is that they usually occur when I have been paticulary stressed and worn-out, and the like. One morning she took me to hospital and yes anything to do with a heart complaint they see you straightaway and call for a specialist.
    On that occaision I spent the night in for observation (ECG, etc) but they found no problems. They said it was probably the combined effects of stress, work levels AND the red wine consumed the night before!
    I started running again a couple of years ago and have not had any "attacks" since that time, even after a very heavy work schedule during the summer. I put this down to the fact that running relaxes and de-stesses you and at the same time builds energy levels.

    The heart rate monitor has to be one of the most important training tool for anyone who is remotely interested in weight loss and/or performance. Natural Blonde, if you have not already bought one I would highly recommend it, learn about its uses from one of the many books on the subject (or better still from one of the many articals on the net - including Runners World). You do not have to spend a fortune on one, if all you want is a heart rate reading with an upper & lower training zone prices can start from about £40 ish.

    I hope you will be able to treat and understand the reasons for your own "attacks" as easy as I have been able to.

    Happy Running

  • Hey Tiffer, thanks for the msg. I am waiting for the results of my blood tests and ECG, which I get next Thursday. Interesting about the red wine - that's my tipple! Trying to recall my consumption on the nights relating to my palpatations.....

    Regarding the advice on HRMs, I am seriously thinking of getting one, and my local gym is going to let me try out a couple of models to see how easy/hard I find them to use, what the functions are etc.

    Glad you could find a reason for your attacks - hopefully I can do same. Thanks - NB
  • NB

    The red wine issue was something that the doctors were quite serious about, as when I mentioned this in the hospital it was almost "oh that will be it" type of reaction. And I also remember that it was a cheap table wine at a dinner dance, I am sure that it would have contained a certain amount of additives of various kinds.
    Now, I only drink organic wine which eliminates those nasty additives.

    Hope your results are positive

  • I've had these palpitations only a few times, but always a) when I'm resting, b) when I'd done strenuous exercise the day before, and c) had some alcohol. So perhaps lazing around with a beer in hand after some serious running is not good for you. Can that be right?
  • Hi folks.i have recently been to see the doc about the wheezing when i run, i gave up smoking 9 months ago ,i have done a novice triathlon ,i am good on the bike good on the swim, but the run i
    have been struggling .I thought it was my level of fitness so did nothing about only train harder.I
    read in 220 that if your not sure about breathing and other similar symptoms go get yourself seen by the doc.
    i went today, 3 months on and countless miles on my running and i have found i have asthma
    and a heart murmur!i have just got upto doing 6/7km runs and was looking forward to doing my first 10km next sunday but the quak suggested i don't do anything until i have had some test's done. Has any of you fit people out there got a murmur,and how does it affect you?
  • Atrial fibriallation (as described by Darth above) is much more common in fit people than unfit people which seems very unfair to me but there you have it. Something to do with lower resting heart rates I'm told. It's an electrical problem which does not necessarily mean you have anything structurally wrong with your heart. Some types of AF can be cured, some not, and how serious it is also seems to vary enormously. I've had it on and off for a couple of years and have got used to it happening once every few weeks or so. It takes time to get used to the idea that you are not invincible but once you get past that you realise that you could have something a lot worse. Like Darth I try and ignore it as much as possible. Have run several half-marathons with no trouble and am in FLM 2003. But have been told in no uncertain terms that it is NOT a good idea to actually run a marathon while having an AF episode!! (not sure if it would be possible anyway). But I was also told that carrying on running is a good thing to do.

    Only the cardiologist can say whether any individual has this or not, but indicators include: does it come on at night (or when resting)? when stressed? after drinking alcohol?

    Lots of good web resources on AF for anyone who thinks they may have it. Try http://www.vagalafibportal.fsnet.co.uk/vmpaf_faq.htm or http://www.yourhealthbase.com/atrial_fibrillation.html

    PS HR Monitors can be pretty useless for AF suffers as an irregular rhythm throws them off completely. I gave mine away.
  • Twelve years ago I went through a spell of a very uncomfortable form of heart beat irregularity. Although not doing any running or jogging at the time my heart felt like it was missing beats and at worst it seemed my heart was turning over and sort of feeling 'loose'! No pains just that weird heavy fluttering in the chest.
    A visit to the doctor produced no serious signs of disease but he said my cholesterol was fairly high and blood pressure was high to go with it. A beta-blocker tablet was prescribed and I was told to reduce fat content in my diet which I duly did.
    The happy news is that since that time there has been no re-occurrence of heart beat irregularity at all even though I now do running and gym work.

    Anyone else had a similar experience?
  • You describe the symptoms very well! Thats exactly what it feels like. Very uncomfortable (and scary the first time) but not actually painful.
  • Hi, one of the 'Quacks' here.

    Palpitations - extra beats, skipped beats or a very fast heart beat can be very worrying. However in my experience they are nearly universal, just about everybody will have an episode at some time. Yes, i've had them as well.
    Thankfully, they are usually nothing serious but seeing your GP for an examination, some blood tests and an ecg is a good idea.
    Sadly, some young fit people do die suddenly from undetected heart disease. Usually this is a problem with the heart muscle called Cardiomyopathy.
    But here's the thing: in all the hundreds of people I have seen with palpitations, none of them have turned out to have this condition and none of them have suddenly died of a heart problem. I have picked up cases of Atrial Fibrillation which as Doug has said is a condition that needs specialist advice. But the sad fact about Cardiomyopathy and the sudden death syndrome is that it is usually not preceded by any symptoms.
    The point I'm trying to make is that the experience of palpitations is very common and nearly always nothing serious. Loads of fit young people will have them as the response to this thread indicates.

    As for murmurs, well it depends on what sort of murmur. There's quite a few types so more info required, but again there are loads of fit runners with perfectly innocent heart murmurs.

    Oh and please don't feel you need to cry to get me to do something. Just asking usually works.
  • Eamon

    Thanks for your posting, what you say is quite reassuring especially as you will obviously understand it from a runners point of view.

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