PALPITATION AND FAINTING.
Of all the symptoms connected with the heart the most common is undoubtedly palpitation. It is a frequent accompaniment of actual disease of the heart, but it is safe to say that in nine cases out of ten in which it occurs there is no discoverable structural alteration of the organ itself.
The frequent, forcible and often painful pulsation of the heart coming in paroxysms depends on a disturbance in the nervous control of the heart. It is occasioned, as is very well known, by a variety of emotions, by over-exertion, by evil habits, by over indulgence in tobacco and coffee,. by injudicious drugging, by faulty dress.
In this chapter I shall not consider those cases in which palpitation occurs as a result of organic disease, nor those (dealt with in the preceding chapter) in which it forms one of the phenomena of exophthalmic goitre, or the condition called “Tachycardia” (rapid heart), where it is a permanent feature. I shall include here only those cases in which there is a liability to attacks on slight provocation, and those in which attacks seem to come on without any provocation whatever.
Women are much more liable to be affected with this form of heart disturbance than men, and the times when it is most troublesome are puberty and the climacteric. No doubt the difference in the organisation and temperament of the two sexes has much to do with this, but there is another factor which is accountable for a vast deal of the heart-suffering of women, and that is-dress. As soon as girls begin to grow up they are compelled to wear corsets, which, if they do not actually constrict the lower segment of the chest, do prevent the proper movement of the chest wall and hinder proper development. Nature has made the lowest ribs free to expand and dilate with the exigencies of breathing; dressmakers have infringed on this by substituting a rigid wall. The lungs not having sufficient room for their natural motion press on the heart and incommode its action. Not having proper room in which to dilate, it makes up for inefficient action by over-rapid action, and thus there is an attack of palpitation whenever any unusual demand is made on the heart and lungs. I need hardly add that when a good meal is added to the contents of the corset, the crowded state of matters is much increased.
The figure of a woman demands a somewhat different style of dress from that of a man, but the part on which the pressure ought to be put is the hips-the part which shelves outwards from the crest of the hip-bone to the prominence of the thigh bone (great trochanter) over the hip-joint.
No amount of pressure can do harm there. But the free ribs must be left free, and corsets should be made of some material which is not rigid but elastic, and which will allow the natural motions of the chest wall to take place. The “Curetta” corset and those made by the Jaeger company fulfil these conditions.
In the same connection may be mentioned another cause of palpitation, and this is, indigestion. Many people think they have heart disease when they have nothing more than indigestion. The heart and stomach are under the control of the same nerve, so that any injury to one is often felt sympathetically by the other. The stomach lies within the arch of the free ribs; anything therefore which lessens this space interferes with the stomach and cramps it for room, and is sufficient to cause indigestion. The heart and the stomach are only separated by the diaphragm, hence any over-distention of the stomach, whether by flatulence or food, is very apt to give rise to heart symptoms.