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I keep checking my pulse all the time, what should I do?

Q: I am in perfect health, walk very briskly and even go up and down the stairs. I have been an anxiety prone person all my life, with nerves on edge and somewhat of a hypochondriac. My fetish for reading medical books for layman has landed me in trouble as I kept on reading about pulse rates etc. and now seem to have developed a phobia for it. I keep on checking the pulse and counting it and now it has become a habit. The word fast pulse, even nominally fast, scares me. I seem to be happy only when the pulse rate is slow and easy at 60, and if it starts going beyond that I start to panic! I avoided checking the pulse scrupulously but that made matters worse later, for when I accidentally felt the pulse I panicked at its pulsation expecting it to be going fast! If I check my pulse, I get into the habit of feeling it all day (while sitting, sleeping, walking) and that detracts from my work. A book I had been reading said that it is all right to have a fast pulse but it should be not be above 120 and that led me to count the pulse fearful lest it exceed that number and happy only when it is 60 at rest. The Pulse Phobia as I call it began in Mussoorie where there was little medical aid and great loneliness and I found myself sitting around simply counting the pulse. I need someone to tell me that a fast pulse is a good healthy thing and that is why doctors advise people to walk briskly, climb stairs and go jogging and swimming to strengthen the heart. Some say that my level of anxiety is focussed on the pulse and has gone up and I should take Alprax every night to get a good nights sleep, which I do not get. So how do I stop this stupidity -- which I known is absolute nonsense. I got into it and have beeen at it for two months now. It seems to get better and then hits me suddenly again. It is a kind of fixation on the pulse with the word fast exuding fear. I am not taking any medicines so far and once tried Alprax which gave me a broken sleep. I sleep well otherwise if not interrupted by phobias. I have cut down from 6 cups of tea to 4 cups as I thought the caffeine may be causing this stupid anxiety.

A:You have a problem with your pulse, it is true, but not the problem you think it is: A constant pulse of 60 would be a sign that you are inactive, and that your heart is not getting the exercise it needs to stay healthy. The heart is a muscle, and must be exercised vigorously to remain strong throughout life. The only way you know that your heart is being exercised adequately is by getting your pulse rate up to 2/3 of the desired maximum for your age, and sustaining that rate for 20 minutes or more 2 or 3 times per week. I do not know your age, but you can find out the estimated maximum for your age from a doctor, or in a medical book about the heart. For example, when I was a 50 year old doctor my maximum pulse was 180, and so I exercised to get it up to 120-130 by running and racewalking for a few miles, for about 30 minutes, in order to strengthen my heart. Now, with age, my maximum pulse is down to 140, as I am 71 years of age and in perfect health. Two hours ago I walked rapidly for two miles, to keep my pulse well over 100 for 35 minutes. Sixty is only the right rate for a heart at REST. Whenever you are doing anything but resting it should go up, in proportion to the intensity of your activity. I hope that this corrects your seriously WRONG notions about pulse. If it does not point you in the direction of vigorous exercise in order to raise your pulse to keep your heart strong, then you must consult a psychiatrist or psychologist for treatment of your ERRONEOUS, IRRATIONAL fear.


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