My crazy heart

For the last couple weeks of January I was wearing a small heart monitor called the Zio XT. Since the end of November, I’ve been having some heart issues (well I think it’s heart-involved) where my heart feels like it’s jumping around or racing when I try to do cardio exercise. Needless to say, it’s been freaking me out, not knowing what the cause is.

I’ve been doing regular exercise for years with mostly no problems. Sure my heart rate will go up with some fly Zumba moves or a flurry of uppercuts and jab crosses in Body Combat, but lately I’ve felt, I don’t know, like my heart is ready to beat out of my chest. I’ve gotten sweaty, anxious and frankly, a little scared. So lately I’ve been doing exercise that is lower impact, like yoga, Bodyflow and barre. I go for walks around the track at the Y. Admittedly, I’ve been avoiding the cardio classes I love doing.

I met with a visiting cardiologist early in January who recommended I wear the Zio patch for a couple of weeks to see what’s going on. I didn’t get it put on until Jan. 20. In the meantime, I had what I call an “episode” when Ross and I were in Sioux Falls on a Saturday (ironically the day after I met with the cardiologist). We had hiked in Split Rock Creek State Park beforehand, and I wanted to go to the mall to spend some Christmas money. I was OK at first, but after a while of traipsing around, I started feeling sweaty, shaky and my heart started racing. I did have my coat on, which probably added to things. But I didn’t feel like standing — it was that bad. Honestly I wasn’t sure what was going on, low blood sugar, panic attack, dehydration or something with the heart. We went to HuHot for dinner, but I couldn’t even stand to have my food cooked for me. I did feel a little better while eating, but still felt shaky, and my heart was still being wonky when I finished. As we headed for home, I eventually felt better.

The thing is that symptoms of panic attacks and atrial fibrillation are kinda similar. So are symptoms of low blood sugar. I’ve started carrying around mini Snickers candy bars, essential oils with lavender and I have anxiety meds. It bugs me that I don’t know what’s going on.

So that led to me wearing a Zio patch for a couple of weeks. According to the info I got from the company iRhythm (where it came from), it’s a “small, wearable heart monitor that continuously records your every heartbeat as you go about your daily life.” It determines if one has an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia.

I got a log book and instructions to go with the Zio. You can do your normal routine with it, including exercising and showering. You’re supposed to not shower for the first 24 hours you have it on in order for it to basically adhere to your skin. The log is for when you have to press the device’s button. When you feel a symptom, like racing heartbeat, skipped beats, anxiety, etc., you press the button. No problem.

Showering with the Zio on was interesting. According to the instructions, I was to take brief showers with my back facing the shower head. No problem, I normally face away from the shower head. But I would cautiously reach for the soap or washcloth if it was behind me, trying not to get soap or lotion on the patch itself. Then I’d slip out of the shower while it was still running to dry off, quickly reach in and turn the water off. It was little like a synchronized dance with every shower.

Since it had been about a month since I had done Zumba, I decided to attend a Wednesday class. I had some apple juice and a mini Snickers candy bar with me (in case it’s low blood sugar that’s been affecting me). I was OK for the first song or two, but then my heart started going nuts; it felt like it was bouncing around and racing. I was also sweating and anxious. And this was just after 20 minutes of class. I pressed the button not once, but twice, thinking I may not have pressed it hard enough the first time. I was scared and frustrated. I was crying on the bench outside the aerobics studio. Luckily I had a friend who helped me through it, whatever I was experiencing, and another person I knew who actually wore a Zio last summer and knew what I was going through. Could it be AFib? I don’t know yet.

When my heart finally calmed down, along with my nerves, I felt a bit spent and defeated. I honestly did not want to experience another episode like this again for a while, so I again chose to not go to high cardio classes until I see what the Zio finds out.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing more yoga, along with barre and Bodyflow. I also walk around the track when I can. A couple of Sundays ago, Ross and I went for a hike in Camden. I was worried that I’d have another episode in the middle of the park. I rolled on some essential oil, ate a mini Snickers and hoped for the best. We ended up going farther afield than we intended with our journey, which included stepping in a snow-covered creek. There were a couple of moments where I felt like something was going to happen, so I stopped with Ross, and he helped me breathe through it. I ended up with almost 20,000 steps on my Fitbit by the end of the day that Sunday with no major issues, so I considered it a victory of sorts.

The Zio device became a part of me during those two weeks: I got used to having it on. It was time to take it off this past Monday afternoon. I was ready, but it became a security thing in a way. I had a little square of adhesive remover to help get it off, wondering “will this be enough to do the job?” It was.

So now I have to wait and see what it found. First, it has to reach the place where it will be analyzed, and it takes 3-5 days to do that analysis (from what I’ve found out), and then the cardiologist has to interpret those results. I’m nervous either way — if the Zio finds nothing wrong (even with the Zumba episode) or if it finds something, like AFib or another heart-related issue. I just want to be able to exercise without fear.