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Avatar universal

Physical Exercise and heart pounding, shortness of breath

I am a 32 year old female. I have been diagnosed with Anxiety/Panic Attacks, mild hypertension (which I think is manily white coat syndrome because when i take my BP at home before and after it is normal). I am taking however, low doses of dyazide as perscribed by my doctor for water weight and to lower my BP. When the diagnosis of Panic Attacks was made 4 years ago I went to the Dr. originally because I was scared there was something wrong with my heart because of the heart palps and shortness of breath.  At the time he diagnosed me with Anxiety/Panic I was not satisfied with his answer so to satisfy my concerns he did an electrocardiogram and also a 24 holter monitor. Both came out normal. Since then I haven't really been exercising intensively over the years except softball one night a week which I quit doing too 2 years ago, because I was always afraid with the feelings I had that I was going to have a heart attack while exercising.  Recently, I just started playing again and also walk 3 times a week for 30-50 minutes. I am starting to get frightened again because I noticed that I get short of breath when I walk. However, I can still hold a conversation while walking so my breath isn't that short.When I play softball and have to run from home to 2nd or 3rd at an intense pace I get short of breath and my heart pounds.Last night this didn't stop for like 15 minutes and I began to get scared thinking that couldn't be normal and that there was something wrong with my heart or I was having a heart attack.Is this normal,am I just out of shape? Maybe was it just panic induced?
19 Responses
Avatar universal

Thanks for the post.

Given that you are a 32 year-old woman who has panic attacks, the highest probability for the cause of your symptoms is indeed the panic attacks.  However, having never seen or examined you, I cannot give you any guarantee.

One way to help alleviate your fear of exercising might be to undergo an exercise test, such as an exercise echo.  If you had your symptoms during the test, and the test was otherwise normal, then you could be reassured that your shortness of breath was from deconditioning.

Let me caution you, though, that some people will never be relieved no matter what the test.  Ask yourself what will satisfy you before you go down the path of testing.  My grandfather used to tell me that "If you go to a barber, you're going to get a haircut."  The implication in medicine is that if you keep seeing doctors, you'll eventually get testing, some of which may be invasive.

Hope that helps.

Avatar universal
Thanks for your quick response.  I have to ask what you mean by what will satisfy me?  Do you mean that most of my problems are brought about by my psychologic worries regarding my health?  I have been told that I am a bit of a hypocondriac when it comes to my health.  Basically, I am overweight as well which I forgot to mention in the last posting.  I suffer from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome which has caused me to have excess weight around my mid section and a bought of other problems that go along with this syndrome.  I am 5'4 and weight 180, which is the reason I am trying to lose weight and be more physical.  The Dr. says that if I get my weight down then some of my PCOS symptoms will diminish.  I just feel like it is a double edged sword.  If I dont' exercise then I can't lose weight and correct my other problems, but if I do then I have a pounding heart and shortness of breath and then I get panicked that I am going to drop dead from a heart attack.  It has been about 3 years since they did my echocardiogram and the 24 hour halter montior.  Do you think I should seek another round of tests?  I basically am feeling the same way I did back then when the tests came back normal.  During the halter test I would feel my hear racing, push the button to record it and then when they read the results they said that nothing was showing up abnormal.  Can your heart really race to the point that you can feel it beating hard and there be nothing abnormal or wrong with you?  Would those tests have showed if I had MVP?  I have read up on that and have a lot of those symptoms to.  Although the Dr back then said that was a possiblity and that is why he did those tests and obviously it was not diagnosed.  Are those symptoms a lot like Anxiety symptoms anyways?  I really appreciate your help.  I don't want to go pay for any unnecessary medical tests if it is just all in my head and I am making myself a wreck when it is normal to have these symptoms when you are out of shape!
Avatar universal
I just loved the third paragraph of your answer.  From my personal experience you are both observant and wise.  jdm
Avatar universal
I'm not a doctor, but I think your shortness of breath and fast beating heart during walking and exercising is from being out of condition, furthermore, you are also overweight and that would contribute to getting out of breath when running.  Many years ago when I started to take my walking seriously and  doing it almost every day, I also would get out of breath and my heart would pound very hard.  But now, after many year, I don't get out of breath anymore and my heart does not pound that hard.  But of course my pulse does increase from about 70 to almost 100.  But that is the purpose of doing a fast exercise walk to get your heart rate up. And in the process I lost 10 pounds.  If you get out there at least 3 - 4 times a week and do your thing, you will notice how it gets easier and easier.
Avatar universal
I've been reading and investigating heart stuff for almost four years.  You start to get a feel for where people are with the heart thing.  There are people who have hundreds of PVC's a day.
You sound OK to me.  I know it is tough but just relax, regular exercise and diet are a must too.
Avatar universal
have you been checked for asthma?
just a thought
Avatar universal

  I'm a 23 year old female, who has had pretty much the same problems as you.  I was diagnosed with a panic/anxiety disorder, and after about 2 years I'm not as bad as I used to be (going to the emergency etc like once a week, because I thought I was having heart problems).  Sometimes my chest discomfort comes and yes, it is frightening, even though like you I have had almost every heart test (stress, monitor, ekg etc)...all which come out absolutely normal.  I guess you just have to work past your own anxiety, I know this sounds unreasonable as I still want to run to the doctor every now and then, but if nothing is showing up on these tests, then I would be more than confident that there is nothing wrong with you.  Like I said, I'm 23 and my heart pounds just when I go up the stairs!
Avatar universal
24/m and I've had the exact same symtoms since i was 17 years old.  My heart would just get out of control then my anxiety would worsen and it would only skyrocket more.  I had about every heart test known to man and apparently my heart is in excellent condition.  And yet I still have the panic attacks and feel like my heart is going to explode.  My doctor put me on Toprol XL to help keep the rate under control and to help with my hypertension.  It does seem to help, but what helped the most was paxil or effexor, its crazy to believe your mind has that much power, but it does.  I still have a very rough time going out or doing any physical activity out of fear I will lose control.  It's a scary thing and it can definitly eat away at your life and make you a recluse.  Paxil seemed to help alot though, my average heartrate at rest is 56-68 and even a few mins of exercise can make it jump upwards of 160s.  I never used to be like this, and it drives me insane pretty much, it keeps me from doing so many things i'd love to do.  If we could just break our anxiety and live normal.
Avatar universal
Thanks to everyone for their comments!  I really feel a lot better about my symptoms now.  I just hate that I ended up with anxiety/panick attacks.  I used to be the most laid back/relaxed person there was until about 4 years ago.  Then out of the blue I had an anxiety attack while driving.  Scared me to death and now it is lingering over me when I want to do things.  I don't let it prevent me from enjoying my life though.  I have over come a lot of the things I used to be afraid to do.  I still exercise but have the fear of a heart attack lingering in my head....which....duh...I am sure is causing me to have anxiety and therefore that is why my heart is racing more than average while I am exercising.  Plus, yes, I am out of shape.

Anyhoo, I greatly appreciated everyones comments and support.  Sometimes that is all I need...for someone to reassure me that I am not alone and that I am ok and not getting ready to drop dead of a heart attack! :)

God Bless All of You.
Avatar universal

I am 32 and have a long history of anxiety and panic, culminating most recently in panic attacks in the middle of the night that often awake me from a deep sleep.  not sure if any of you have experienced similar attacks.  not fun.

anyhow, i am very active, and believe that exercise is a KEY to keeping the attacks at bay.  i went through an extended period o of time in the mid-nineties (after being a competitive distance runner for most of my life) when i stopped exercising altogether for fear of some horrible episode.  finally, and slowly, i got back into walking, then jogging, and now am pretty much back to normal.  i believe that it has saved my life or, at the very least, enabled me to enjoy and appreciate life much more than i otherwise would.

i know it seems difficult to do, but i strongly urge you to keep moving forward step-by-step, stay positive, and not be a slave to the attacks.  good luck.

Avatar universal

Thanks for the moral support and letting me know that I am not alone and that I need to keep up my exercise to help out with my attacks and that I am not have my symptoms because of a heart condition but rather a anxiety thing.

Avatar universal
Hi carby  :)
i just wanted to make a comment to you.. I have been teaching areobics (step) for about 10 years. About 1990 I was 100 pounds over weight. I have always had panic and anxiety which really sucks. Anyway, when i was over weight my heart pounded like yours when i would work out. Guess what?? I am now in great shape and my heart still pounds! The worry in my head that constantly entaganizes me is always there. This is a huge part of anxiety which leads to panic. I have panic that wakes me from sound sleeps at time in the middle of night. I have panic that takes me straight to the er day and night. I  have had panic and anxiety disorder all of my life, since i was 5 years old. I hated leaving my mother anytime. I am 37 years old and still have attacks all the time. But i fight.. I fight! Everyday.. I challenge myself to get on the freeways and other many things as well. This disorder can be tricky, and you can out trick it. I used the tapes attacking anxiety by lucinda Barrett. Its great. You can look it up on line. I also go to a work shop that kaiser offers its a group setting and can some times be comical. Keep exercising daily, this helps with anxiety. Not to mention better health. Stay away from junk food, and sweets especially. No soda.
It does help so much. I wish you well sweetie :)

spachic1  (Debbie)
Avatar universal
Hi Debbie -- just thought I'd add a quick comment.  I too utilize Lucinda's tapes and they are great!  Can be a bit pricey if one doesn't have the funds, but well worth every penny.

If anyone is having financial issues and cannot afford the full price of the tapes, they will work with you.  They did this for me when I bought the "whole package" (video and audio).

Just wanted to share!

Avatar universal
Hi Beth,
Thanks for the Hi 5. lol..
I am really getting lots of emails from everybody, and I must say it's great! We all seem to have alot in common, especially how caring we all are and sympathetic twords each other. That is so good to know that attacking anxiety has a payment program. It has helped,  but I do have to say I have to go back and refresh from time to time. You know even though alot of my pvc is under control right now, I will say I sure enjoy speaking with all of you. It helps! It's like a minny therepy session. :)
Thanks for all your comments your all great people.
Thanks Beth!!  
Avatar universal
Just came upon this site and consider it a blessing for so many peeps with questions concerning our health concerns.
In reading about the Panic-Attacks that so many of us experience, I can indeed relate.
I am a 60-year old (next week, sheesh!,am I really?)female 2X massive heart-attack surviver(since 4/24/03)..amazing for sure(!) that would like to share MY own discovered cure for panic-attacks.
First off, I haven't had such a monster drop by unexpected for nearly 7 years now.
As any of know panic-attacks can be sooo bad at times we wonder if we 'want' to live to a ripe old age if they don't STOP.
My first panic-attack occurred when I was 40 and yelled for me to wake from a deep sleep. After that they just seemed to pick up momentum and became a frequent caller anytime, anywhere.
For nearly 14 years I suffered misery and embarrassment while I collasped right in front of customers in a workplace.
It was hard to keep jobs and I was a single mother for many years.
Anyway, we've all got our horror stories on these episodes.
At age 53 I was at Walmart and took my BP on their in store machine. It had a very high reading which worried me enough to leave and go directly to a doctor. The long/short of it is that she prescribed Verapamil 240 mg for me that day and I've never even experienced one 'seizure'? since. Why? I don't know. I do know if I missed my med by a few hours it began to trigger the problem again.
This 'pill' worked for me! Can it work for anyone else? I don't have the answer. But, I'm so grateful for those 'easy' years after that discovery. I would like to think there's something there for someone else. Any doctors to comment on this?

                                                Good Luck..
Avatar universal
hi im a 19 yr old male just few days ago my drocter told me i have a heart murmur and sense then my heart seems to be beating harder i was woundering if that could just be in my head but also i would like to know the effects of smokin marijuana with a heart murmur
Avatar universal
You might want to take a look at "The Feeling Good Handbook" by David Burns and the chapter on anxiety.

Fear of a Heart Attack is very common and brings on more anxiety. There are some specific things you can do to convince yourself that you are not experiencing a heart attack and thereby alleviate some of the anxiety. There is also advice on how to "accept" or not be frightened by the symptoms of anxiety. When you become frightened by the symptoms, the cycle escalates into panic.

Another good book is "Thoughts and Feelings" by Patrick Fanning (I think)
Avatar universal
is this thread open
Avatar universal
A related discussion, heart relatted was started.
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