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    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | August 23rd, 2015


    This time last year, I noticed I was having an increase in heart palpitations (heart beating fast). I scheduled an appointment to see my doctor. My blood pressure was normal and I was not really having any other symptoms but heart palpitations. She performed an electrocardiogram (EKG) and some lab tests. The EKG and labs were normal. She wanted to put me on medication, but before I started the medication, I wanted to know why I was having the heart palpitations. She sent me to a cardiologist (a physician that specializes in the heart). The cardiologist placed me on a 24 hour monitor and scheduled an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart). The 24 hour monitor showed the heart palpitations. The echocardiogram was normal. During this time, I informed my sister of what was happening. She asked had anything changed in my life. I told her that I was so busy that I had stopped meditating in the morning. When I followed up with the cardiologist, he reported that everything was normal. He offered medication to help slow down the palpitations. I asked him what could be causing my problem. He wanted to know if I was stressed. I admitted that I had two children going to college and getting them ready for school and paying tuition was a bit stressful. He suggested that this could be the problem. I declined to take the medication and decided to get back to my routine – daily meditation.

    There are many benefits to meditation – reducing stress, managing anxiety and depression, easing pain, staying focused, and helping to avoid colds and flu.  It has been shown to help with learning and memory. Everyone has the capacity to meditate and reap the benefits. Although there are many styles of meditation, they all lead to the same endpoint, the calming of the mind.  If you have a practice already, I would encourage you to continue with the practice. If you have never meditated and would like to try it, I practice ‘mindfulness meditation’. I read an article in the Time magazine (February 3, 2014) that best described how to start.

    1. Sit cross-legged on a cushion on the floor or in a chair. Keep your back straight and let your shoulders drop. Take a deep breath and close your eyes if you wish. (My preference is to close my eyes) 
    1. Notice your breath. Do not change your breathing, but focus on the sensation of air moving in and out of your lungs. 
    1. As thoughts come into your mind and distract you from your breathing, acknowledge those thoughts and then return to focusing on your breathing each time. 
    1. Do not judge yourself or try to ignore distractions. Your job is simply to notice that your mind has wandered and to bring your attention back to your breathing. 
    1. Start by doing 5 minutes a day for a week. The more you meditate regularly, the easier it will be to keep your attention where you want it.

    I find that meditating in the morning is helpful. If you find that 5 minutes is too long then you can start at 2 minutes. Each week, add a minute. Go at your own pace. To gauge the time, I put my phone on airplane mode and then set the alarm. Choose a pleasing sound to come out of meditation. Mine is set on crickets. I do it for 10 minutes most days. I have gone as long as 30 minutes, but 10 minutes tends to be my sweet spot. Try it for a week and see how you feel.

    Please note, if you do have heart palpitations and are on medication, please continue taking your medication. If you have heart palpitations with symptoms (shortness of breath, fatigue, or chest pain) or without symptoms, please schedule an appointment to see your doctor. There are life threatening conditions that are associated with heart palpitations and need to be evaluated. Meditation does not cure those conditions.


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