Obsessive Pulse Taking: I was diagnosed with... - AF Association

AF Association

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Obsessive Pulse Taking


I was diagnosed with AF 3 years ago purely by chance - I also suffer from Anxiety and OCD. I have been prescribed 2.5 Bisoprolol and 20mg Xarelto per day for the AF, Alzam 0.5mg twice per day for the anxiety, which is obviously a trigger for the AF. I really do not have many symptoms, but I am obsessed with checking my pulse, I use a wrist BP meter and my phone. It will show irregular heart beat one moment (it never goes above 110, but jumps between about 65 - 89) but the next minute normal with a HR of say 80. I see a cardiologist (saw him Weds) and according to his tests I'm doing fine. I live in South Africa and there is only one EP within 500 km from where I live and it's impossible to get an appointment, even cardiologists are thin on the ground. I live alone, so I'm not sure if I should rush to casualty (which would be frequently) - we have one at our private hospital when my pulse is irregular, or what to do. Can you please tell me what normal people do and how often they take their pulse, if they are basically symptomless like me!!!!!!

55 Replies

I would make an appointment with your GP rather than go to casulty - unless of course you are feeling very unwell. With OCD and anxiety it is probably going to be those that are triggering things off and maybe meds need tweeking a bit for those? Try not to worry, you will be ok.

I`m with you on this - checking your HR can become an obsession !

Your jumping HR is normal with AF - try not to worry it happens to the best of us ;-)

You wrote

........I see a cardiologist (saw him Weds) and according to his tests I'm doing fine........

He`s the 'in the know' guy. It`s easy to say - but try not to worry to much. Your cardio says you are doing fine which is cracking news. You have had tests and the top dog say`s your fine - try and keep that thought in mind the next time you panic.

Accepted HR is up to 100. If it hits 130 - 140 at rest then personally I would go to A&E. 110 for a short period should be OK. I`m not a doctor though so it`s always best to get it checked out if you feel concerned or worried.



Thanks Paul, glad to see I'm not the only nutcase on this site!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Throw away all you gismos and try not to worry. I know this may be difficult but anxiety only exacerbates the problem. I was the same years ago and only started to feel better when the batteries on my machine died. Suddenly realised it was the constant checking which was causing the problem! Now I don't have a pulse in one wrist thanks to a slightly difficult angiogram I cant even check that!

As another "nutcase" (as you put it 😊) on the site, I see this more as a case of how best to manage your anxiety and OCD in the long term. Fixing one focus of the anxiety usually means another will replace it.

While medication has it's place, I believe the help of a skilled psychologist can be invaluable. I speak as someone with a history of serious mental illness, not in any pejorative sense.

Cool screen name by the way...

pusillanimous in reply to oyster

Thanks Oyster, I tried a psychologist, but I think he was the wrong one for me, so I was disenchanted with the outcome, and you are so right, one fixation will replace this if I overcome it, I think the solution is in my own hands and I must avoid living up to my screen name, ha, ha, ha.!


Do you know what type of a fib you have? If it is persistent, which means continuous, then it sounds like you are doing fine. The medication you are taking is supposed to slow down your heart so it doesnt get crazy fast. If you have no symptoms, thats not a bad thing. Maybe limit yourself to only checking your blood pressure and heart rate once daily before you take your Bisoprolol, and that is to make sure your heart isnt too slow from the Bisoprolol( too slow like under 50)

My a fib comes and goes. When it hits, it is hard and heavy , lasts a few hours but I cannot do anything as I feel so bad. Im a little envious of those who have no symptoms, lol.

pusillanimous in reply to Hidden

Thanks Hoski, the cardio has me down as PAF, but I know that can turn into persistent and I sometimes I have a weird subconscious desire for it to do so, that way it can be neatly filed with my OCD i.e. it's there all the time so I don't need to check it constantly! one of my problems with the constant checking and being symptomless - is,how else am I going to know that I have a serious problem and need to get urgent treatment? I have never had a heart rate under 50 - mid fifties has been my lowest - but I'm happiest when it's about 70! I had a cardioversion two years ago and that was by chance, after my obsession took over. I had been diagnosed with Afib by my GP after I had visited her with an infected cut on my leg (caused by a run in with an aloe plant in the garden) anway she prescribed an antibiotic, and I went home, shortly after taking the first one, I started vomiting and vomiting until I was vomiting flecks of blood. I immediately rang the surgery and was told to come at once - there I had an ECG and was diagnosed with AF - my GP shipped me off to a Cardio some distance away because she was worried I had damaged the aota(I had to find a lift because she would not let me drive) and when I got there I was back in NSR, he kept me there for two days and released me with the beta blocker. He wanted to leave the anti-coagulant to see what happened but I must immediately get an ECG at my GP's if I went into AF. That's when the pulse checking started. Anyhow the inevitable happened and I became AF went to GP, was prescribed Warfarin and the Cardio wanted to see me in a week. Went back to him, he examined me told me I was still in AF, I could either just continue with my meds, or have a cardioversion there. I opted for the latter and was stable until the obsession reared its head again. That cardio moved and I'm with a different one nearer home, but he is so busy, there is no time to discuss my fears, to do it here is so wonderful, and I hope people will forgive me for being so wordy.

Hidden in reply to pusillanimous

Ideally a doc could have you wear an event monitor for a week of more and that would give them a better picture of whether you are flipping in and out of a fib. If you are, then the question is whether you want to treat it. Treatment would be cardioversion and you add one more pill to your list which would be an antiarrhythmic drug, that comes with side effects. The other treatment is ablation which might make your a fib go away for a period of time.

Ive heard on here many times by people mire experienced than I, “ Treatment is all about quality of life”. So in my humble opinion.... You can pursue more investigation, or you can be happy you have no symptoms and quit looking under that rock. I too have anxiety so I know its alot harder to quit worrying. Anxiety stirs up a fib so I would b tempted to take the word a fib out of my vocabulary and try and live life believing my heart can be trusted.

Keep us posted and dont apologize, this forum is here for us to turn to in times of need. We dont always have answers but we care. 💜

pusillanimous in reply to Hidden

Thanks Hoski - I don't know what is worse the Anxiety or the A Fib! The cardio says my heart is strong and mt blood profile 'pristine', but it's so comforting, especially when you are on your own to know that there are people like you and members of this group, to pour your heart (figuratively) out to !!!!!!

Hidden in reply to pusillanimous

Yes! I definitely think the anxiety is worse than a fib! If God had a return option, I definitely would return anxiety over a fib, lol.

pusillanimous in reply to Hidden

Ha, Ha me too!!!!

My cardiologist always says "Don't worry about your heart rate, how do you feel?". In the process of normal life, your heart rate may well go up to 150 or more for a short period - especially if you are exerting yourself. It may go down below 60 when you are resting and, so long as you feel okay, there's nothing to worry about. Take your pulse if you feel dreadful and go to casualty if you continue to feel rubbish and it's doing something strange.

Otherwise try to relax (I know it's easier said than done!).

Just to add Chris. IMO if your HR is 150 at rest it`s wise to seek medical attention there and then. If you are exercising it`s acceptable but not at rest.

Personally I want to keep it down. Since my CV it`s been 60 at rest - perfect. I really am well chuffed although I half expect it return to afib soon. Had a small attack this morning as it happens but back in NR as I type. My rate jumped to 80 + when it happened.

Sorry OP for high jacking your thread ;-)



Thanks for the additional info, I don't know where you live, but even though Chris Barnard pioneered the heart transplant here in South Africa, I feel that the average GP and Cardio is confused about AF! I have 2 sisters in the UK who have it, but when I asked my GP is it was hereditary she said 'no' (I even think my father had it). Although they obviously can interpret the ECGs, there seems to be a variance in what action to take when you are aware of an attack, from 'Don't worry if there's no symptoms' to' get emergency help it your rate goes above 110 or lasts for more than half and hour'. My anxiety of course feeds on these mixed responses !

Of course it does Puill - understandable. My take on afib is that`s it`s a nuisance but it won`t kill me. Also remember new medical treatments are being discovered all the time. Bet you a new treatment will be available in 3 - 5 years. Might even be a cure !

The name of the forum would have to be changed to the EX-AFIBBERS association !

Now that WOULD be nice.



What a wonderful thought, Paul !

Thanks Chris, that is such a relief - so great to discuss fears with people who understand.

Nice to meet someone else with a similar story, I have OCD and anxiety as well. I struggled with AF for a year before diagnosis because it was put down as panic attacks. Once I was diagnosed, compulsive pulse checking was a problem. I would check my pulse a hundred times a day sometimes. I found a good cognitive behavioral therapist and she really helped me.

This is what is so great about this site, we find we are not alone with our compulsive behaviour. and that in itself is an enormous help. Thank you Faraday - I'll try and track down a similar therapist, with the last psychologist I consulted after 4 sessions, we got no further than what I thought of Brexit (I don't even live in the UK anymore) and what life after death consisted of!

I hope you can find someone! Cognitive behavioral therapy freed me from so muc

Unfortunately I don't have to take my pulse I hear it 24/7 in my ears and have been doing so since 2006. I woke up one night at 1am when my pulse sounded odd. A trip to the emergency room and they diagnosed AF and prescribed Dabigatran and a month later I had cardioversion which was successful (fingers crossed). I have another appointment at the hospital in 2 weeks as the constant noise is doing my head in. Pulsatile tinnitus according to Dr Google needs urgent evaluation but every medic I have seen just laughs it off. I wish I could get back to taking my pulse instead of having it thumping in my ear.

Hylda in reply to Glenn50

I too have pulsatile tinnitus and ordinary tinnitus so am either whistling or thumping!😂 Have found I can tune out to most of it now but have also been given hearing aids by tinnitus clinic.


allserene in reply to Glenn50

Tinnitus story. In 1968 I was working night shift in the police force when a woman called me at 3am to report that her neighbour (semi detached house), was running an illegal alcohol still.... She could hear it bubbling and popping. She had me kneeling with my head in a cupboard to listen to it. Nothing. Next day she left a message for me that her doctor had diagnosed tinnitus. Case solved ! Horrible condition as it is all the time with no relief..

Hidden in reply to Glenn50

I feel my pulse in my head and can hear it at night, I have tinnitus in my right ear

I find breathing slowly and deeply really helps. Not sure which it is most helpful for - the heart or the anxiety - but definitely worth checking on line how to do it. If it becomes a new obsession instead of pulse-checking it can only be good for you.

Sometimes I know there's something going on with my heart and I'm anxious it might become full blown Afib and I can breathe it away. It might take a little while but having something to do rather than just worry is really helpful.


I have permanent but asymptomatic AF. I know my heart rate is on the high side of normal

I can't take beta blockers because of rare intolerable side effects. I was recently in the recovery room after having had a colonoscopy without sedation and without entonox, and was wondering why I was being kept there so long. When the nurse came to look at the monitor I was connected to she said she was worried about my heart rate

I couldn't see the monitor but said to her that it was normally in the 90s. On hearing that I was allowed to get dressed and have a drink and sandwich before being discharged.

I don't worry about the rate or the irregularity. I take my Warfarin daily. I am not on any other medication for AF as no medication works.

Ah fellow worrier ! I have a nice BP monitor but I got some weird readings so I bought another to 'check it'... So then I had 2 reading but which one is correct ? (duh). So this week I bought another monitor ! Just call me "Alan 3 monitors"..... Airbus has 5 computers that majority vote to fly the plane. I had one flutter after my initial one, and I caused that by trying to drop my beta blocker in 3 days instead of 6 weeks... I converted with one 50mg beta blocker (6 hours after the morning one), followed 6 hours later with a 25 mg... So I would always try a couple of beta blockers before I give up after 24 hours and seek the emergency room.. I would go to the doc first as he gives me a note to take to emergency which gets me in quicker.... If I haven't converted after 4 hours in emergency I would insist on a cardioversion jolt rather than being admitted. The hospitals are awful...

Alan, I've got two monitors and a programme on my phone, but I really don't know how to interpret the readings.! I will check with monitor 'a',shows irregular pulse and HR say 89, wait a couple seconds set it again - it shows no irregularity and HR 70, figure that three tries is best, wait a few minutes and repeat the process, showing irregular pulse again but HR 75. Repeat the process with monitor No2 , much the same result! - then use the phone for good measure, three times, much the same - when I've got 2 normals out of 3 I stop for the time being, before I do it all over again a short while later. I have decided to put them away to try and stop this vicious circle of anxiety I'm creating for myself!

I'm really symptomless, I don't have a pounding heart or anything like that, it is my anxiety that I might be in AF that is the ridiculous thing, so I check 'just in case' and the anxiety breeds more anxiety so I check again - I was at the Cardio on Weds. and he says my heart is strong the right side is fine although I have mild asthma with mild COPD - I take an alzam tablet for the anxiety,2.5 beta blocker and Xarelto- I'm not sure what form you suggest I take the cannabis, although it is now quite legal to smoke it for personal use here in South Africa, but I wouldn't do that because of my lungs!

Indeed... Same as googling "stopping Eliquis"...after 4 minutes we scare ourselves to death and we are convinced that a serious stroke is inevitable within the hour... Meanwhile, all the medical people are never going to tell me its ok to stop anti-coagulants. Why should they ? Its only going to give them liability. So avoiding the rising tide of worries is our first job... We can't be cavalier with this stuff but we can't live with the warnings of the doom-sayers either... Middle course is the best policy as usual... Told my Doc that I take my neck pulse every hour, and he told me dont bother, you'll know if you are in an episode...

Sounds like my symptoms are the most similar to yours. I have intermittent AF discovered by accident 3 years ago when they were about to wheel me down for a knee replacement operation which was postponed because of this. Since then I became more anxious for a while but have survived two knee replacements and a gall bladder op. They are careful about the anaesthetic and I did have a bit of a scare when my heart went really fast with the gall bladder op due to fearful anticipation. In between I get AF like clockwork every 4-5 days. It lasts about 48 hrs. it's never that fast, about 95 max from normal at 58 and just goes in fits and starts and pulse is weak. Soon settles to irregular groups but not fast. However I feel fine with no change in life style except possibly slightly more breathless if I do anything really strenuous. I don't feel any need to do anything as my EP and cardiologist seem totally unconcerned and everyone is more worried about the stroke risk. I take sotalol 2x 40mg day and Apixaban 2x day. No side effects but sotalol seems to make no difference unless it is clipping off the peaks of my heart rate. And yes, i monitored my BPM and BP almost daily for the first year and still check my pulse manually just to confirm when i think I have gone into AF. I do feel a change when it kicks in and it always initially feels like a light palpitation in my stomach and neck for an instant but I rarely miss the sensation. I do record it all in a spreadsheet just so I have accurate info for check ups but I don't worry about it to ant extent because I feel I am lucky for it to have such minimal effect. I don't have OCD !

Cheers, Dave

Very like me without the OCD! the Cardio is happy when he sees me, and I'm on annual visits now, but everything he does comes out of fancy machines and I get a report that says things like Echocardiogram 2D measurements, Aortic root=30mm, Left Atrium = 30mm and odd things like that, that I have not a clue what they mean - no time to ask because he's off to the next victim in the overflowing waiting room!

Grows like weeds here, so I'll get a plant and grow some-quite legal - don't know how to make brownies but can make a Victoria sponge!!!

Well I've got an annual routine Echocardiogram next month. I'm sure I will have a few questions. Are you in the UK? I am and I think they will give me time to ask any questions on stuff like that. I don't worry day to day any more but I want to know if there is any long term effect on my heart. Also I never get offered an ablation although I don't think I want one anyway! I wished they could make more progress on research into why it flips in and out so regularly. When it is working properly it's perfect and I always expect it to stay in rhythm - I mean why wouldn't it, it knows it's capable!

No Dave, I'm is South Africa although I am English, and unfortunately although we had had Chris Barnard, many medics are emigrating - mine is competent and although he's private, he's overworked - He said my heart is strong and wants to see me in a year, there is only one EP in KZN where I live. I'll get my GP to explain what this technical jargon means - I can phone her. .My Cardio says a large percentage of the patients he sees are canoeists and tri-athletes, my son is a canoeist and had an attack - he went to Cape Town for an ablation and has never had a repeat, and he concurs a lot of his canoeing friends (young men) have AF, but I know mine is a combination of advancing years and hereditary predisposition - my two sisters in the UK both have it and I think my dad did - I'm thinking of visiting them later in the year and we can compare notes - email is limited!

Try and get out of the habit as you will know if your heart is beating irregularly as you will feel it in your chest. I am now on Amiodarone 200mg per day as Bisoprolol made me feel strange and very low in the mornings. Get to feel a little sickly at times but it’s working well for me as have Heartrate free app by Azumio on my iPhone and my heart rate is around 65bpm as is smooth as the app shows.

Glad you have organised yourself, Mike, I'm trying to 'Pull myself towards myself' as the saying goes!

I was diagnosed fifteen years ago with AF and have been on various combinations of meds to keep it mostly at bay. Just keep in mind, AF is a nuisance, it’s not lethal. Don’t let it rule your life. It’s how you feel that matters.

Wise words Mike, I think i was last in line when common sense was dished out!

Sound advice above and I must admit I worry little about it now. It came as a shock at the time because I had played a lot of sport all my life and played cricket till I was 60. I had no idea although I had felt a bit faint a couple of times whilst playing golf and put it down to low blood pressure. Never smoked, only drink socially and not really overweight so finding out my stroke risk had gone up as if I had done all those things and not kept fit was a bit of a bummer. But then look at all the terrible things that happen to people far less deserving. So I think I am very lucky.

So right Mike, I really think my problem is more in the mind, if I don't have anything real to worry about, I look for something - I'm so much better off than many people. although I'm a widow and not very social, I have my own lovely house, I don't have to worry where my next meal is coming from, I can go off on trips if I feel like it, I have a son who is successful, although I'm not wealthy, I have so much more than others and I should try and concentrate on that and not my HR!

My AF is due to severe cardiomyopathy 11 years ago. Heart efficiency was down to 14% and listening to my extremely irregular heart beat was terrifying for everyone. However, a few months after the infection a paramedic told me that I faced a mental battle as well as medical one. He'd seen too many people let the stress drive them to their deaths. It was the best advice I ever received about my condition. I checked my progress at set intervals but not in between unless I felt there had been a change. I learnt to sleep in positions where I couldn't readily hear my heart beat. I worked hard at minimising all forms of stress. I'm back to work full time and I am still here 11 years on (much better heart efficiency these days of course).

Wozz, you are strong brave person, whom people like me must endeavour to emulate. And I'm going to try meditation and stop feeling sorry for myself from this day forward!

CNWozz in reply to pusillanimous

I hope that the meditation works for you. It's not a question of feeling sorry for yourself. Your heart is unwell and naturally that's very disturbing. The challenge is to cope with it mentally in whatever way suits you - and stress and AF are closely related. Reducing the stress is also very good medically.

Good morning

I have similar problem I take my Pulse

Far to often.

About 6 Times a Day .

I guess you will always get a different

Reading until you get the one you

Want .

My own shows Normal around 125 /80

But Pulse would be high at around

85 - 110 . Here it gets weird if I can get a

Pulse reading at Lower day 70 the Blood

Pressure goes up to 125/ 95 which seems odd .?

Being on changed medication Bisoperol

Now also Ramiprill my Bendrofluazide

Has been stopped.

But I now believe that if taken as well

That is 3 Drugs I think it would give a very good reading.

But I’m not a Doctor?

Does the above make any sense to you

and an you understand.

Reason I ask is that while I feel I get

Benefits from this site a Woman came

On being critical of grammar saying she

Couldn’t understand my English.

Maybe she was an old Head Mistess

Hope shes Reading this ?

But possibly won’t understand

Cheers John

Seventy 9

Should have been Can you read !!

Yes I understand completely, I just have the two drugs, the Beta blocker and Xarelto, and like you I tend to try and try until I get the reading that satisfies me, and I think this creates a catch 22 situation, the further anxiety I create breeds further heart disturbances. My blood pressure tends to go down when my pulse is irregular, so then I worry if I am get a blood supply to my vital organs and I start studying my finger nails and lips to see if they have turned purple! I don't believe the Cardio when he tells me my heart is strong and my blood results are pristine - I'm sure he's muddled me up with someone else! I think I need a psychiatrist not a Cardiologist!

Hi, I'm quite Sure if your cardiologist said you are fine then you will be OK. Over time you will stop being over anxious about your AF. Don't worry too much although you will have to take care of yourself, I find caffeine and alcohol trigger my AF, Consequently I don't drink anything that contains either. Keep as healthy as you can without being obsessive and let life take care of itself. I have had AF for years and I'm managing fine.

pusillanimous in reply to coopo

Thanks Coopo, I only drink water and decaffeinated coffee, and try to eat as sensibly as I can, but although I'm not overweight (8st) I feel I don't get enough exercise, so I'm going to try and improve on that !

Try doing meditation or mindfullness- it would help with the anxiety too. And is there any nice countryside around you where you could take a gentle walk and see the beauties of nature? Good luck!

Yes Sandi, I'm trying to relax - I live on a gated eco- estate in South Africa, so there are walks, I also have a very nice garden, with lots of birdlife, and I have set up a static bike on my verandah which is enclosed with seamless glass doors, so I have started gently pedaling - I will build up the time, I stopped pedaling for quite a while because I had a compression fracture of a vertebrae due to it having osteoporosis, but it is healed now and I'm on bone strengthening medication, I can sit and peddle on my bike, see out into my garden and watch the birds and plants as I clear my head , and as within my enclosed verandah, I have a small swimming pool, I can dismount from my bike and sit and watch the calmness of the water. I started this routine today, have put away my pulse measuring devices and am already feeling calmer.

Well done! It all sounds very luxurious- We have sunshine here and I've just put some washing out to dry on the line.

Anxiety will bring pulse up try not to take it all time I didn’t get on with bishopric made my heart rate rise then go right down

Thanks Fairycakes, I'm really working on it, I'm pedalling my static bike just for 20 minutes everyday,(10 mins in the morning- 10 mins in the afternoon and relax watching a Woodpecker exploring a tree outside. I'm going to the UK in Sept and as well as visiting my sisters, I'm trying to plan a tour while I'm there

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