What Is Hyperpnea?
Hyperpnea (also known as bradycardia) is a condition where your heart rate or blood pressure drops suddenly. This sudden drop in blood flow causes a variety of symptoms including: shortness of breath; chest pain; palpitations; dizziness; nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and other physical problems. You may experience these symptoms even if there are no signs or symptoms such as anxiety or stress.
The cause of hyperpnea is not well understood but it’s thought to be due to a number of factors such as:
Heart disease – high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease (hardening of the arteries), heart attack and stroke. Heart failure – lack of oxygen reaching the heart muscle. Anemia – low levels of red blood cells (red blood cells carry oxygen around the body). Aortic stenosis – narrowing of the aorta (the main artery leading from the heart to the rest of your body). High blood pressure – too much salt in your blood.
Diabetes mellitus – uncontrolled type 2 diabetes. Smoking – smoking increases your risk of developing hyperpnea.
If you have any one or more of these conditions, then you’re at higher risk for having hyperpnea. It’s very important that you seek medical advice immediately if you suffer from hyperpnea.
Types of bradycardia:
You have probably heard of “tachycardia” which is a heart rhythm problem where the heart beats too fast (over 100 beats per minute). There is also bradycardia where the heart beats too slowly. Tachycardia is potentially more dangerous than bradycardia as the heart doesn’t pump blood around the body effectively. However, the opposite is true when it comes to treatment, in that doctors are often more cautious in treating bradycardia and will typically wait longer before administering any medication.
There are many types of bradycardia but they can be broken down into three main types:
Sinus bradycardia – this is where the resting heart rate is below 60 bpm. There are many causes for this such as hypothermia, blood loss, drug ingestion (especially beta-blockers), dehydration and more. Sick sinus syndrome – this is where there are problems with the electrical system of the heart causing problems with the normal electrical signals that control the beating of the heart. The heart rate is typically between 40 and 60 bpm and can be caused by a number of factors such as: older people (especially after the age of 60); those who have had a previous heart attack; abnormal heart valves; heart disease; and diuretics. Low potassium levels.
A medication called a beta-blocker.
Neural bradycardia – this is where there are problems with the nerves that control the heart, again leading to a drop in heart rate. Causes of neural bradycardia include: Diabetes mellitus – high blood sugar can damage the nerves. Carotid sinus syndrome – pressure on the carotid sinus (in the neck) can cause a drop in heart rate. Phaeochromocytoma – a type of tumour of the adrenal gland that causes high blood pressure, headaches and palpitations.
Symptoms of bradycardia
Because the heart is beating slower than normal, there may not be any symptoms at all. If you experience symptoms, they typically include:
Dizziness or lightheadedness.
Shortness of breath.
Fluttering or palpitations.
When to see a doctor
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should see a doctor or visit an emergency department. The faster you seek medical advice, the more likely it is that the cause can be found and treated.
What happens at the hospital?
The doctor will thoroughly examine you and ask about your medical history. They may also ask about your diet, whether you’ve taken any drugs or supplements, and whether you have any family history of heart disease.
They will then carry out a physical examination. This may include tests such as listening to your heart and lungs, palpating your stomach, as well as looking in your ears and eyes.
The doctor may also measure your blood pressure and take some blood samples.
Tests may also be carried out to see whether certain reflexes are slowed, such as bending your wrist back with your thumb inside your fist. The doctor will then rapidly extend (or supinate) your wrist. If this causes your pulse to slow down, this is called the aortal-radial reflex and can be a sign of carotid sinus syndrome.
The diagnosis of bradycardia is made based on your symptoms and physical examination.
Sources & references used in this article:
Cardiodynamic hyperpnea: hyperpnea secondary to cardiac output increase. by K Wasserman, BJ Whipp… – Journal of Applied …, 1974 – journals.physiology.org
Oxygen cost of exercise hyperpnea: implications for performance by EA Aaron, KC Seow, BD Johnson… – Journal of applied …, 1992 – journals.physiology.org
Mechanical constraints on exercise hyperpnea in endurance athletes by BD Johnson, KW Saupe… – Journal of Applied …, 1992 – journals.physiology.org