FINGER ON THE PULSE
THE inside track on your heart rate. This week: A technique that slows the heart
A Faulty heartbeat is increasingly common as we age and there are different causes affecting this vital organ’s upper and lower chambers.
A fast heart rhythm that originates from tissue in between the upper and lower chambers is known as supraventricular tachycardia.
It can occur spontaneously and sporadically, leading to a racing heartbeat, breathlessness and dizziness, says June Davison, a senior cardiac nurse at the British heart Foundation.
It is usually treated with medication and surgical procedures that burn away heart tissue that’s thought to be producing faulty electrical signals, but there is also a technique — called the Valsalva manoeuvre — that may help ease an episode.
It involves trying to exhale while keeping the mouth and nose closed, while straining as if you were on the loo.
When done correctly, this stimulates the vagus nerve, which helps to slow the heart rate. It can work within a few minutes.
This manoeuvre is for patients with supraventricular tachycardia. If your heart is racing as a result of exertion, it should resolve itself.