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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Learning to Live with SVT's

I have come a long way since my 3rd SVT this past October.  Yesterday I had my 4th SVT.  I was scrubbing the kitchen table, and then I walked into the bathroom to use the facilities and was going from a standing to a sitting position, I twisted my torso a little bit, and I felt a thump in my chest, and then my heart felt like it was fluttering.  I yelled out to the family, "I'm in tachycardia!"

I called for DH to come and stay with me while I finished and then we walked into the kitchen by the clock so I could count heartbeats.  I tried several vasal vagal maneuvers, coughing vigorously like Dr. XXXX showed me, splashing cold water on my face, and bearing down like I was having a bowel movement.  This made me to have to actually have to go, so through the heart race I went to use the facilities again.

This  action should have stopped the episode, but it didn't.  I was so frustrated, and thought, "Oh, great!  I'm going to have to go get my shoes on so I can go to the ER for an adenosine push!"  So I got my shoes on and arranged for DS to watch the kids.

 I tried to stay emotionally calm through all of this because I knew that if I got worked up, my heart rate would go up.  My top rate this time was only 148.  That was great because the time before last was 163, and last time it was 200, I'm sure because the paramedics were having so much excitement with the opportunity for an adventure in our sleepy city that I was providing for them, they got me all worked up.  But I have to say, I do appreciate the young men that work at our fire department.  They are kind people.

This time I knew that I wanted to really try hard to convert on my own, and that meant I had to stay calm and think with a clear head.  I couldn't let the flight or fight response kick in this time.  I knew because of Dr. Martin, the ER doctor, and FP telling me that my heart was structurally sound and no sign of heart disease, that these SVT's were only a nuisance and not life threatening, so this time I knew I had time to be patient and try to convert on my own.

With my first SVT two years ago, I converted on my own, the one this past July, I converted by drinking 5 glasses of water at the grocery store Urgent Care, and saying a prayer. The third one I called the fire department because I knew I needed to get the SVT on a monitor, a really smart move on my part for my emotional healing. To get documentation on the type of arrhythmia I had, and to find out it was the benign kind of tachycardia was vital for controlling my anxiety levels. Even though the adenosine push was a dramatic experience when I had my SVT in October, yesterday I converted again by calming down, saying a prayer and drinking the 48 oz. of water, like I did with my July episode.

Yesterday,  I also took my blood pressure.  My blood pressure was 135/80.  I've had it go go up to 160/110 during the episode in the ambulance, but the one I had at the grocery store my blood pressure was 130/80.  It helps to stay calm, like I say.  I was calm when I had the episode at the grocery store Urgent Care because the nurse practitioner was very good at calming me down. By the way, I just want to mention that she was just running a "bandaid station", so she didn't have an EKG machine.

Yesterday, DH put a chair in front of mine, sat down facing me, held my hands, and just talked to me calmly.    He did mention that he was amazed to see my pulse in my neck.

I tried my blood pressure a second time and while I was trying to put on the cuff (this was about 10 minutes after drinking all of that water), I converted.   Hallelujah!!!!!!!  This was so important to me!!!!!

The conversion was actually uncomfortable.  I suddenly got very dizzy and then momentarily felt like I was floating, and then I couldn't feel my heart beating anymore.  This is when I knew I had converted.  I was so happy to have converted on my own, because the paramedics had told me with the last SVT that I should always call them when I go into SVT.  This could get expensive, and they are not doctors, and I know that if I have another driver with me, I have plenty of time to get to the ER if I can't convert on my own. So, I won't be calling them again, unless I'm having symptoms like chest pains, or about to pass out.

Today I found a blog that I found to be extremely comforting.  This is from a cardiologist who has SVT's. I have now switched off of her page so I can't remember her name, but I did put her  URL on my clipboard, so here is her blog address....  Notice, she is also a vegan. :)

She talks about her experience of being an interventional cardiologist and a heart patient at the same time.  It was comforting to know that the unsteadiness you feel about life when you are living with SVT's, she also experienced, and were similar to the feelings I have.  It was also interesting to see that her SVT's seem to be exercise induced like mine seem to be.  In addition, it was comforting to know that she was willing to opt for an ablation because of the disruption the SVT's were in her life.  Knowing that she was not concerned about the invasiveness of the surgery, I shouldn't be either, should I have to rely on that option.

Anyway, having seen DH go through two heart catheterizations, I know that it is not a very serious operation.  I just hope that if I end up needing it, I can get it approved when Obamacare kicks in.

Having done much reading this week, I am learning that I should just expect to have to live with this the rest of my life.  What I am learning is, I must keep living.  I can't be afraid to live.  Also, there are many, many people who have this condition for many years and still have productive lives.  Lastly, I have learned that I must learn how to deal with stress and not push myself on the days I feel run down.  All of my SVT's have been on the days I have felt run down.

Dr. Martin told me that he moved from Illinois to Iowa to get rid of the stress in his life.  Then one day, he realized that stress follows you wherever you go, but he said, "the key is to learning how to manage stress because stress is a condition that meets us at birth and follows us throughout life.  It's part of being human, and we have to learn how to deal with it." So many people I have read from have been told that controlling SVT's depends on controlling stress.

I have to learn not to let myself get worked up or angry.  I have to learn that I can't have control over everything.  I also need to remember that I can go to Heavenly Father in prayer when I do get stressed out.  Yesterday's SVT ended while I was putting on the cuff and saying a silent prayer at the same time.  The SVT I had in July ended during a silent prayer.

Another thing I have learned, now that I have had four SVT's is that the first warning sign is cramps in my calves.  This tells me that being run down may be from being low on potassium, or magnesium, or both.  All of my SVT's have happened within 24 hours after forgetting my magnesium supplement.  I have also been sleep deprived on these days, and from what we have learned from Caronlyn Dean, M.D.'s studies on magnesium deficiencies. magnesium can become more deplete with lack of sleep.

All of my SVT's have also been during PMS or during my menstrual cycle, which also causes a decrease in magnesium levels.

All of these discoveries, now that trends are showing for me, point to the importance of taking care of myself, which I am trying harder to do.

Just to summarize the trends again, in order to be helpful to others.  The following conditions have been precursers to my SVT episodes....

Feeling run down, like having the flu (I am recovering from the flu, by the way)
Having leg cramps the day before and the day of the SVT
Missing my magnesium supplement
Physically pushing myself in the form of physical labor despite being exhausted.
Being sleep deprived.
Being in PMS or in the middle of my period.
Being angry or stressed out.

On all four of the my SVT's I have met all of these conditions.  I don't know exactly what the trigger is, but I know that if my legs hurt, I must figure out why and take care of it.  What that requires at this point, I haven't figured it out yet, but I will.  If I am sleep deprived, I must take it easy.  If I am in PMS, I must take it easy.

I'll keep posting my progress on avoiding SVT's on this blog.  Hopefully, I will never have one to write about again, but that is unlikely.  Hopefully, they will never get bad enough for me to have an ablation, but I'm glad it's an option, if it's needed.

I'll keep everyone posted.  Thanks for reading!!!!


  1. Thank you. I self-manage my SVT and had reached the same conclusions you had - I now know when I am most 'at-risk' to having an SVT episode. But it was very reassuring to have the views I have arrived at rather clumsily and haphazardly confirmed by a fellow sufferer. Best wishes.

    1. Thank you so much for your reply. The Internet has been so helpful for me in my management. Being able to connect with others who suffer from SVT has helped give me so much hope. I don't know anyone personally, who suffers, but now know many across the Internet. Thank you for validating that self-management is possible. I have since had three more SVT episodes since this January post. All of them have happened this summer while I was living in a rental owned by friends who decided to put their house on the market. We were going to build a house, and we had plans to rent the house until the house was finished. I have been trying to manage very deeply seeded feelings of resentment towards them for uprooting my family, and the three episodes have happened on my days of highest resentment. However, in all cases, I have been able to convert back within 15 minutes by laying down on my left side and resting. Thank Goodness! I am far more down the path in my learning about this condition, and the management of it than I was a year ago, and so grateful for your comment.

  2. Hi Deb, i am 37yr old and have never had any seriouse problem with my health until then. then without warning had big stress with my job in early jan. 2013. after 2 weeks of 24hours thinking on all the things which could happen (i have 3 kids, house, loan etc.) i have had my first SVT. i was like i have to die. called ambulance and got adenosin in the hospital. pulse 220 - ecg with suggestion of AVNRT. so i went home and my psych was completely down. all i thought was i have to die. after several visits at the psychologist i startet getting better and as well startet to go cycling, running, doing fitness, reading, relaxing (meditation) etc. - i thought i have it gone, because i felt really good at this time. i think it was about 2 months after my first SVT. suddenly i got it again. because of the experience with sport and the psychologist helped me to stay calm, having no fear - i went to my car and drove to the hospital on my own ;=) the gave me adenosin and then it was ok. after this happened i was like falling into a deep hole - very sad that, although i did prevent anything which is stressy, did many sport, leaving alcohol and only eating healthy food, it came again. this was the first time i went to a cardiologist. i had my whole family with me and was crying at the doc, he said that this is real AVNRT and could be completely healed with the cathods. i was afraid but i said ok, i will do this, so i have had my appointment in the hospital in may. i have had so much fear and psychostress before the surgery, but in the end i am so glad that i did it. since may i have never had anything and i am totally renewed. i have no fear anymore and living a completely new life. very healthy, many sports, not making me to much stress. i recommend to do the surgery, because it is really not a big one. i have had big fear as well, but you can go over it - i am sure! wish you all the best!! BR Markus (austria)

  3. Markus, Thank you for sharing your story. You are an inspiration to me, showing that people can live with this condition and lead a normal life. I have found it helps to connect with others that know what it is like, and your comments will help others reading this post. Thank you!

  4. Hi Deb: My 11 year old daughter had an SVT episode 2 days ago, the first she's had in almost 2 years. She was diagnosed in an ambulance that had to come to her school.

    Reading your blog is like talking to her. Besides the rapid pulse (they clocked her close to 300 in the ambulance) it is interesting that she mentioned feeling like she was going to faint right before it ended this last time. She also tends to get some cramping in her legs within days of these.

    She's been on atenolol the last 2 years. Her docs would like to see her get the ablation, but we are proceeding slowly.....

    1. HI Cora, Thank you for your comment. I can't imaging dealing with this as a child. I will validate to you that I have leg cramping every single time prior to my SVT's. I've had my magnesium and potassium levels checked and my blood work shows they are fine, but, in recent months, I have been diligent in making sure I'm getting enough magnesium and potassium in my diet now, so as to keep the leg cramps from coming back. I haven't had an SVT since I started supplementing with magnesium glycinate (100 mg per day for me), and making sure I'm eating potassium rich foods like bananas, raisins, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and V8 juice. It's been five months since my last SVT. In the mornings I drink 16 oz. of water, take my magnesium, and then drink another 16 ounces mid morning to make sure I'm getting enough water because I notice that I usually get SVT's when I haven't been drinking enough water, as well. Sweets can lower magnesium, so you might look into how much sugar she is eating. You might also look into food allergies like gluten and dairy as well. Other than that, if I was having frequent episodes and going too high on my heart rate, I would definitely consider ablation, if it was me if the other things didn't work. By the way, I just recently found out I was allergic to raw onions, and that was really upsetting my stomach and I think it was making my heart irritable. Since I have stopped eating onions I am not having nearly the same amount of premature ventricular contractions (another heart rhythm issue I deal with). So, I really think there is a connection to SVT's and food allergies. God bless you both and I hope you find some a solution soon!

  5. I have been managing SVT for just over 1 year (I am an otherwise very healthy 42 y/o woman). I have 2-6 episodes per day ranging from 1 minute to off-and-on for a couple of hours. I wake up with them at night too. I am EXHAUSTED all the time but for now I am still working full time and raising a teen. I'm on the list for ablation but ugh, the waiting. Did I mention SO TIRED!!! Thanks for sharing your story... so nice to be in good company!

    1. I understand that exhaustion that comes from dealing with SVTs. I am very sorry that this has been your lot in life lately. I was 47 when I started having them. I was having them frequently up until a year ago. The big change that happened for me was learning my triggers and feeding myself the best diet for heart health. I have not had an SVT in 13 months! They are so wicked, that I remember the exact dates of my events. My last one was May 4, 2015. Anyway, here is how I have managed them. 1. Don't overfill the stomach. I have a hiatal hernia and when I eat too much my hernia presses on my heart and pushes it out of rhythm. 2. Don't bend forward at the waist. I bend at the knees. (I know you get them while sleeping, so this advice doesn't help much.) 3. Don't get dehydrated. 4. When the heart is going through patterns of PVC's or skipped beats, I know I am more prone to SVT, and those PVC's are pointing the way to messed up electrolytes, so I go to the store and get low sodium V8 juice and coconut water. In a day I will drink 1 can of V8 and 1 can box of coconut water and the PVCs always calm down. 5. Don't allow myself to get angry or extra stressed. All of my SVTs have happened when I have been worried or stressed about something. 6. Take 100 mg of magnesium oxide. 7. Follow a low-fat plant based diet as outlined in the book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. This ensures me that I don't have to worry about and SVT triggering a stroke or heart attack because it keeps my cholesterol down. I just don't want to have any extra heart worries. Amazingly, I think the diet has helped heal something in my heart that was triggering the SVTs because I have been tremendously active, and have had major life changes this year, have managed to get through everything SVT free. Best of luck and best wishes to you. You are not alone, and you will get through this.

  6. I loved finding this site tonight as I have a overwheming sadness now from SVT ruining my life. I am so afraid to take blood pressure meds for this problem. I used to be Ok with it they were a year apart and I could handle that but now after I got older they are every month and its making me sad to live with it. I have no insurance so ablation is out I am running up a bill at ER for conversion now. I have had this for over 20 years but have become afraid of being alone in fear of another attack, so good to see so many can relate to me.

    1. Deborah, I am so sorry that the SVT's have gotten more frequent. I used to have them every couple weeks, and when that was going on it really ruined my quality of life. It's been a long time since I have updated my condition in regards to my SVTs, but I have learned a lot since I wrote this post. I have a hiatal hernia that when my stomach is full, it tickles my heart and messes up my heart rhythm causing PVCs which can sometimes trigger an SVT. If my stomach is full, and I cross my arms over my stomach, or hunch over in a chair, or bend over to pick something up, or go on a rollercoaster that turns upside down (I live by Disney), or raise my arms up above my head, it will trigger an SVT. The key to converting an SVT for me is to slow my heart rate down enough for my heart to find the correct pathway and get out of the secondary pathway. My vision is that when we get into SVT and we get worked up about it, we keep that heart rate up through our nervousness and then the heart has no way to find that correct pathway. My theory is that we need to really calm ourselves down and even try to ignore the SVT so the heart can lower it's beating enough to find that path that leads to it beating through all four chambers instead of two. Always when I go into SVT, I go get a cold glass of water, if I am able to, lie down on my left side, and then think to myself, "calm slow beating heart", and try to think of pleasant thoughts like a vacation, a beautiful scene, or playing my favorite classical piece of music in my head, like Clair de Lune, or something like that. I usually convert in less than two minutes. A few weeks ago I had my first SVT in nine months. I had just eaten dinner, and had gone to a neighbor's house and was talking in her driveway and had cross my arms over my stomach and the SVT started. This time, I couldn't get to the water, couldn't lie down, but I did explain to her what was happening. I concentrated on deep breathing, and thinking "slow the heart rate down," as I continued to use our conversation about gardening as a distraction. Again, I was able to convert in one minute. I will say it is vital to eat a healthy diet that causes low inflammation. I eat 90% fruits and vegetables, no sweeteners, except stevia, and 10% grains, but because I am a celiac, I am 100% gluten free. I have learned as I have talked to others effected by this condition that many are also celiac. You might try the diet, and if you need information, I recommend you read the books Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., and The Secrets to Ultimate Weightloss by Chef AJ. Both of these authors are personal friends of mine and very accessible, sharing much of their guidance for free. The reason why I recommend these two books is not because SVT is caused by heart disease, but the diet helps strengthen the heart and keeps you from having a heart attack during SVT and gives you peace of mind that you won't have a heart attack so that you can convert more easily from that peace of mind, and also if you do have a need to lose weight to get the pressure from the stomach off of the heart, this is the most permanent and healthiest way I have found to lose. You may or may not know if you have a hiatal hernia, but just assuming that you might have one, losing a few pounds will go a long way to helping to get that hiatal hernia lowered and out of the area where the heart is. Hope this is helpful information. Thank you for reading my blog, for commenting, and my best wishes for future peace of mind, and improved quality of life. I know how tiring being in this cycle can be.