April’s over and summer is near. My first post of the month is the last day of the month. I’ve been busy working out and trying to avoid death.
April went far different than expected for me. I ended up in hospital E.R. at one point and found myself wondering if I was about to meet my maker.
While I’m not 100% sure what happened, I’ve got a seemingly sound theory and it’s worth a post.
It started in the second week of April. I had several episodes of increased heart rate and shortness of breath. “Strange” I would think, each time it happened. I didn’t worry too much until about five days later, when the feeling intensified. At one point, I had to pull my car over and get out. The feeling of panic wasn’t helping any either. It felt like someone was sitting on my chest and I could barely breathe.
That lasted about five minutes and I was thankful when it left. Unfortunately, it returned in the middle of the night and woke me from a sound sleep. I walked it off and nervously went back to sleep about a half hour later.
The next couple days had me experiencing this again, but not to this degree. I quit my daily sprints and even stepped away from lifting for a full week. I thought I was doing better until April 22nd.
Sitting at work, the shortness of breath returned and the heart was pounding faster than it had in any previous episode of this.
I’m not a guy that ever goes to the doctor. In fact, I don’t even have a primary care physician. It’s been at least ten years since I’ve been to a doctor for anything so trust me when I tell you that I have to be feeling something extra to make a visit to urgent care. I was flat scared by now.. and eager to make a visit to the hospital.
The waiting room had at least 20 people. I felt deflated on arriving and looking around and thinking how long I was going to have to wait. But.. it turns out that when you complain of chest pain, there’s no waiting list. I was quickly asked to sit in a nearby wheelchair and whisked away to my own little room. And you know how you usually have to wait 20 minutes before anyone comes in to check on you? Not even close. I immediately had 5 people in the room hooking me up to machines, putting in an IV, checking blood pressure, drawing blood… you name it.
A kind nurse explained to me that it was going to be very busy for the next 15 minutes because heart problems are always a priority, so I should relax.
The unfortunate part of this story is that by the time I had arrived at the hospital and was ushered to my room, nearly 20 minutes had passed and my heart rate and breathing had returned to normal.
What the Hell Happened?
The best news of all was hearing the doctor come in and advise that my EKG was perfect. I probably can’t properly convey the feeling of peace that gave me.
“So then what’s going on with me” I asked?
They said they honestly didn’t know. Everything checked out perfect. The doctor asked if she could send me to a PCP that was a friend and “a real workout fanatic”. Sounded perfect. “Sign me up” I said.
I went a few days later and Dr. Strong (I’m serious) had my blood-work results. He asked if I had ever had thyroid problems before? I let him know that I was diagnosed with hypo-thyroid about 10 years prior. At that time, I had developed a relationship with an online doctor who asked me to eat as many green vegetables as possible while taking a natural thyroid medication. He had expressed his disdain for putting patients on medication at the first sign of hypo-thyroid.
After three months of the “green” alternative, I went back and tested perfect for thyroid levels. My normal doctor was shocked and almost seemed insulted. In any case, I hadn’t been back to test for thyroid problems since.
Dr. Strong said that my results now seemed to indicate hyper-thyroid. I went from under-active thyroid to over-active thryoid?
We started discussing the possible causes and that’s when the obvious hit me. April 1 was the first time I started eating “normally” again since Jan 1 of last year. After 15 months of decreasing my daily caloric deficit (with very few cheat days), I jumped calories up to nearly twice. I went from eating 1500-1600 calories a day (and only 1000 for a large part of January) to eating 3000 a day.
“Can thyroid problems affect your heart rate?” I asked the good doctor.. already knowing the answer. He laughed and said that the thyroid has a very direct effect on the heart. It seems I had found my answer.
What is strange is that my blood pressure was perfect during my visit to the urgent care and again on the doctor visit. Hyperthyroidism typically elevates that when there’s problems.
Also, my TSH range (thyroid level) was just “slightly elevated”. Dr. Strong said he wouldn’t expect the symptoms I had from a slightly increased level. He further noted that he hadn’t ever dealt with a patient that went from a drastic calorie deficit to a surplus. 1600 calories is certainly far less than my body needs but I’ve been in search of lower single digits body fat. It’s not healthy though.
The whole experience was a reality check for me. I’m still focused on being extremely lean but I have a much stronger interest in keeping all my health markers where they should be. I have continued with 3000 calories a day since the first of April. Surprisingly, I’m only four pounds more than when I was on a severe deficit. I’m going to continue seeing this new doctor and getting regular checkups on thyroid, testosterone and blood pressure (to name a few).
If I had last year back, I think I’d do a lot more refeed days. I really believe that being on a deficit for so long was contributing to the previous condition of hypothyroidism. When I doubled the calorie count, it sent my body into a shock mode of sorts. In any case, the symptoms have nearly all left now. I have only barely felt the elevated heart rate a couple times since. I revisited sprinting last week and have started hitting the iron hard again.
For now.. I’m excited about summer and playing some weekly volleyball again.
I’ll likely start lowering calories again in the next couple weeks but I don’t think I’ll go much below 2000 this time around. I’ll still have fasting days but those will be fewer. I plan to just shoot for adding more exercise this time around. Hang with me. I’ll get super-lean yet.
Hopefully, I’ve posted enough information to help someone else that finds this post and has been experiencing a rapid heart beat and uncertainty of the cause. It’s a scary thing when you’re feeling it for the first time.
Also, be aware that an increased heart-rate could just as easily be a symptom of hypo-thyroid as it could be hyper-thyroid or it could be unrelated to either. If you feel something abnormal going on with the heart, get to the doctor right away. You’ll want to know if something’s wrong and the trip is certainly worth it to hear that everything looks good.