If your heart sometimes races out of the blue, you may have symptoms of a panic attack. But it could a heart condition, paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia.
Lynn was a healthy, happy 32 year old woman who jogged daily for exercise and seemed to be in tip-top physical shape. But one day, while calmly and happily looking at new lipstick colors at a cosmetic counter, she suddenly felt strange. Something was wrong.
Realizing her heart was beating extremely fast, Lynn dropped the lipstick sample she was holding, raced to her car, and drove quickly to a nearby ER. There a doctor said her heart was beating normally and nothing appeared to be wrong with her at all.
A follow-up visit with her personal doctor resulted in a diagnosis: Lynn was told she'd had symptoms of a panic attack. She felt reassured her heart was ok, but she didn’t understand why it had started racing in the first place. She had not felt anxious or panicked at all in the store.
And then weeks later, she had symptoms of a panic again.
It was as if a switch had been turned on until, about 20 minutes later, the imaginary switch turned off, leaving her with a normal heart rate. It was not until a few years later Lynn learned the “switch” description is often a tell-tale clue about the heart condition she actually had — paroxysmal (meaning it starts with no known cause) supraventricular tachycardia, known as PSVT, for short.
January 25, 2018
Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA