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Heart rate speeds up, slows, spikes, pauses
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Heart rate speeds up, slows, spikes, pauses

I am 43 years old.  About three months ago, I started slowly training for a short triathlon.  After a while of training, I noticed that I felt like I should stop exercising, even though I didn't feel like I was exerting myself much at all.  It turned out that my pulse was up to 165-170bpm.  It didn't happen every time.  Resting heart rate for me seems to vary between 55 and 125.  I have since had the stress test, wore a 24hr halter, and had an echocardiogram.  From what I am told, everything looks basically normal--my heart is normally sized, no arrhythmias, normal thyroid function.  The only notes were a slight leaky valve and three pauses of 2-3 seconds in the 24-hr halter test.  I was told to do what I felt up to and that was it.  Yesterday, about 5 minutes after walking two miles on a flat treadmill (135bpm), I suddenly felt light-headed and my heartrate monitor indicated 173bpm.  It lasted for less than ten seconds, then went down.

Should I go back to the doctors?  I have been having trouble communicating, so any advice on what is important and what isn't would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you.
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Dear Beth

Your doctor's advice about doing no more than you are comfortable doing is sound; the triathlon is probably not a good idea. An event monitor worn for a period of days may be better able to capture the heart rate problems that lead to your symptoms. I do think further evaluation is sensible, especially since you describe lightheadedness.

I hope this has been useful. I wish you the best of luck. Feel free to write back.

Information provided here is for general purposes only. Specific questions should be addressed to your own doctor. If you would like to make an appointment at the Cleveland Clinic Heart Center, please call 1-800-CCF-CARE or inquire online by using the Heart Center website at www.ccf.org/heartcenter. The Heart Center website contains a directory of the cardiology staff that can be used to select the physician best suited to address your cardiac problem.
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