Monday, February 16, 2009

Running out of Rhythm/ my PVC story

I thought I would share a story about my heart specifically about PVCs (premature ventricular contractions). Put simply, PVCs are an extra heartbeat that disrupts the normal heart rhythm. PVCs are very common especially in athletes. Treatment is recommended if symptoms are frequent or if there is a history of heart disease.

To me, PVCs felt like a deep skipped beat in my chest. Initially I would only feel these while at rest (sitting or lying down prior to going to sleep). After I turned 40, and when training in hot and humid weather, I would notice these more often. This summer I participated in the Hood to Coast relay. Shortly after this event and during my fall training my symptoms increased in frequency. I began to notice them daily and while standing as well as rest. My MD and I then decided it was time to get some tests. I opted for a echocardiogram. This test would look at the structure of my heart. It came back normal, but it did confirm I was having PVCs.

Meanwhile, a friend had done some reading on endurance athletes and low magnesium levels. There were several reports of improvements of PVCs with making sure these athletes were getting their normal amounts of magnesium. I decided that it would be worth trying to change my diet and making sure I was getting enough magnesium. I stopped drinking coffee and started eating magnesium rich foods such as almonds and pumpkin seeds. I made sure I took my multivitamin and added a magnesium supplement to make sure I was getting my RDA. I also began my recovery month (lower training mileage. Within a month (December), I could not feel any PVCs in standing and felt very few while at rest. I had my blood tested and requested they check my magnesium levels. My blood work came back normal. In January, I began to ramp up my training. At this time I no longer feel PVCs even at rest.

The moral of this story: SEE A DOCTOR with any heart related symptoms. It is worth getting checked out even if it is just for peace of mind. When I was having my symptoms in the fall, I couldn't train hard without worrying about what was going on with my heart. Get some tests done to make sure everything is alright. Consult a doctor about your diet. There are several research articles on this subject which can be found on Google Scholar. Here are some links to easy read articles on endurance athletes and magnesium deficiency.
sri chinmoy marathon team

1 comment:

Ed Hammerbeck said...

Yeah! People with weird hearts, represent!

I have paroxismal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) [or AV Nodal Reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT) depending on which cardiologist I see]. I've been on medication for it since 1998 or so, and it hasn't affected my running one bit. Well, actually, it makes heart rate training nearly impossible since my heart rate is typically on the high end of the scale. When I am supposedly at 90% or more of my maximum heart rate, I feel fine. My perceived exertion should be an 8 or 9, but it could be as low as 6 or 7.

I could get a stress test or some sort of exercise physiology exam done, but there hasn't been a medical need so I haven't felt like paying for it.

Good luck!