April 03, 2009

I have Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia.

After Halia was born, I contacted my life insurance agent - like every responsible parent should after a major life change. We worked out how much additional coverage I wanted and which policy would was best.

Then, I was asked to go see a nurse for a medical.

The medical was painless, except for when she took a blood sample. I used to give blood regularly (and so should you if you're able) and it never hurt. When this nurse took blood, it hurt. She wiggled that needle deeper and deeper into my arm, trying to draw blood from a vein that was quite a lot closer to the surface than she was looking.

She also took my blood pressure and my pulse.

She said my blood pressure was low. She didn't say this like it was a good thing, but with her eyes furrowed, like it was something to be concerned about - like it was so low that a little jab in the arm with a needle might relieve enough pressure that I would have no blood pressure at all.

She took my pulse several times, with the same furrowed-eyes look on her face. I sat there, breathing calmly and deeply, while she counted beats and looked at her watch. I was having the same number of beats, but she said that my heartbeat kept speeding up and slowing down and that it was speeding up and slowing down a lot.

My heart has always done that, especially when I breathe deeply. I've got a lot of lung capacity. I used to be a distance runner and I play the tuba. Every time I breathe, my lungs are giving my heart a little hug, so it doesn't beat as fast. That's normal, right?


With that furrowy look upon her face, she scratched into the medical form, through all four colours of carbon paper: IRREGULAR HEARTBEAT.

Now my heart really was beating faster. My mind started to race. Was there something wrong with my heart? Could all of the sleepiness I've been feeling lately have something to do with a failing heart, and not the 03:00 wake-up calls by the kids as I had assumed? With all of the other garbage my family has had to go through this year, do we need to add a failing heart to that list?

I did some Internet research. There's a lot of stuff on the Internet about hearts.


I actually felt a sense of relief when the insurance company asked me to go have an ECG. If there's something wrong with my heart, I reasoned, it's better I know about it.

The ECG was a painless procedure.  All I had to do was lie down on a too-short examining table and relax.

After a few seconds, the technician declared, "Normal!" Actually, she said it indicated that I was "fit". It would appear that the slowing down and speeding up of my heart rate when I breathe is called Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia, which sounds bad, but really means your heart speeds up when you breathe in and it slows down when you breathe out.  "In humans, the magnitude of the RSA increases with physical conditioning and self-induced, relaxed breathing.1" In other words, if you're fit and relaxed, the change can be a big one.  "RSA becomes less prominent with age, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.2"

So, the ECG established that I have a very healthy heart.  Now what I want to know is, does this mean I get a discount on my life insurance policy?



Every Photo Tells A Story said...

Although I am very glad to read in your "second to last line" that you do in fact have a very healthy heart. About your "attention grabbing" post title....well... I'll keep my mouth shut, Meandering Michael! Perhaps, journalism should be your next venture:)

Suzanne said...

I remember (what i think was) the first time you gave blood... I had to convince you to come with me! I'm glad you kept up with it.

Meandering Michael said...

Nope, I never required any convincing. I always looked forward to the day when I could do it.

Scientific Chick said...

Ok, you had me worried at first (I was thinking, this guy doesn't need this!), but I'm glad to hear all is well. Be careful when searching medical issues on the web... I'm sure you already know this, but it's usually more conducive to paranoia than anything else!

Opa said...

You can truly count your blessings. I would hate to imagine that the diagnosis could have been for RCA (Respiratory Cosinus Arrythmia) or worst of all RTA (Respiratory Tangent Arrythmia). I used to get all three of those when facing the triangulations of math exams.

Every Photo Tells A Story said...

ALL mash potatoes, no gravy:P

Meandering Michael said...

What's gravy?