Thursday, December 12, 2013


Palpitations  – the doctor term for increased heart rate – terrify me.  The first time they happened, I waited a couple hours, and when my heart didn’t slow down,  I went to the emergency room.  There, numerous staffers asked me if I’d been drinking alcohol, if I’d been taking drugs, either prescribed or street. If I’d just come there for a free meal. When I explained that I don’t take drugs, prescription or street, that I’d had dinner, and I don’t drink alcohol, they accused me of lying and took 6 tubes of blood to look for proof. They also ran an EKG, to rule out a heart attack. And had me breathe radioactive air to rule out a blood clot in my lungs.

Soon, they stopped sending in people to interrogate me and hooked me up to a gadget that kept track of my heart rate, which was in the 130's.  They never apologized when they got back the report of 0 blood alcohol and no systemic drugs.  They didn’t even officially tell me. I had to ask one of the nurses.

They kept me there for 14 hours and gave me nothing to eat, and nothing to treat my elevated heart rate,  which was gradually coming down on its own. All they did was tell me to make an appointment with a cardiologist.  I did that, and they still wouldn’t sign me out, so I signed an Against Medical Advice form, and left.

One of the nurses said it was a good thing I’d come in because women’s heart attacks can take many forms.

The cardiologist sent me for a stress test.  The stress test doctor told me the name Palpitations. Finally – something I could look up on the web and in my herb books.  

The heart doctor prescribed beta blockers.  I took 1/4 of one pill and it slowed my heart to 50 beats per minute, and kept it there for a day.  The next day it was 60 beats per minute. I managed to drag myself to the gym and elevate it briefly on the elliptical.  The gym is turning out to be one of my major health treatments.  I emailed the heart doctor about what happened and told him I wasn’t going to take any more. He never got back with me.

The key thing I discovered during my web search is that foods can set off an increased heart rate.
I started paying attention to even minor increases in heart rate. Bread with sesame seeds on the crust raised my heart rate. Stir-fry made with toasted sesame oil raised my heart rate.  Tahini really raised my heart rate.  After that, I quit eating anything with sesame seeds.

I went two years without any palpitations. I knew what to avoid. I stopped paying careful attention.  I read a review of Mary’s Gone Crackers, which talked about how delicious they are and how nutritious they are.  I bought a box. I liked them. They didn’t have sesame seeds on top like many crackers.  It never occurred to me that they had sesame seeds ground up in them. I ate a bowlful.  And then it started.  Major heart rate increase, like with tahini.

My first thought was – what’s wrong now? It can’t be sesame seeds.  I didn’t even think to read the label on the crackers for over 10 hours.

To make matters worse, my husband decided to read to me, which I love, but he came to a scary part in the story, and my heart rate got even faster.  I had to ask him to stop reading. He was disappointed.  I told him he could finish the story on his own.  He put in a bookmark, and said he’d wait until I felt better.

I decided to go to the gym and do what normally makes my heart rate increase – I got on the rowing machine and rowed full-out for 15 minutes.  That felt great briefly, but then my body did not go into relaxation mode, like it usually does.  It maintained the high heart rate.

I put on my meditation tape and meditated for an hour, while doing deep breathing.  No improvement.  Terrifying as palpitations are, the web articles say they’re not dangerous.  It seems to take about 14 hours for sesame seeds to get out of my system.

No more eating anything without reading labels. And I’m avoiding all foods that could possibly contain hidden sesame seeds at parties and restaurants.

I was never into diets. I’ve never had a weight problem.  I’ve never had to watch what I ate.I thought I was one of the lucky ones. (This is turning into a stale refrain, with the hip replacement (from being hit by a car while riding my bike) and the cancer (just because I’m human.)) So now I have to watch for foods that trigger arthritis and foods that trigger palpitations.  I guess I’m lucky it’s a short list of foods I need to avoid.


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