Key Points About Palpitations
See your doctor or go to the nearest emergency department if you or someone you care for has palpitations and any of the following symptoms:
- recreational drugs such as cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, ecstasy and cannabis
- not getting enough sleep
- strenuous physical activity or exercise.
If you think lifestyle factors are causing your palpitations, you can take steps to reduce their effect on you. This may involve stopping smoking, drinking less caffeine and alcohol, avoiding recreational drugs or choosing a less intense form of exercise.
Are Premature Ventricular Contractions Life Threatening
If someone has normal heart function and no evidence of structural heart disease, the PVCs are a nuisance, but benign. If the PVCs are so symptomatic as to be disruptive, try eliminating all of the factors such as caffeine, certain foods, stress, before considering any treatment with medications. When we do treat with medications, we usually try to use simple medications such as beta-blockers first before going on to specific anti-arrhythmic agents. Very frequently, this is enough to improve patients’ symptoms.
Can Heart Palpitations Be Prevented Or Avoided
Heart palpitations cannot always be prevented or avoided. Here are some things you can do that may help prevent or avoid heart palpitations:
- Do not use illegal street drugs, such as cocaine.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.
- Tell your doctor what medicines and herbal supplements you take.
- Tell your doctor how much alcohol you drink and if you use anything else that might cause palpitations.
- Keep track of your palpitations. Write down the time that they happen and what you were doing when they began. Give this information to your doctor. He or she may be able to use this information to determine what is causing your heart palpitations.
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Will My Healthcare Provider Be Able To Rule Out Other Causes Of Heart Palpitations
Your provider will want to verify that anxiety-related palpitations arent dangerous. They may recommend other tests, such as:
- Chest X-ray to look at your heart and lungs.
- Echocardiogram or to examine your hearts overall function.
- Electrocardiogram to check your heart rate.
- Exercise stress test to see how your heart performs with increased activity.
- Holter monitoring to record your hearts activity over 24 to 48 hours.
If a Holter monitor doesnt show unusual heart rhythms, your provider may give you an event recorder. You can wear this recorder for weeks. You press a button to record any heart sensations that you experience.
Treatment For Heart Palpitations
Heart palpitation treatment depends on your doctor and getting to the root cause of the problem.
In case palpitations are due to lifestyle choices such as smoking or consuming too much caffeine, cutting down or eliminating those substances may help. If it is medication-related palpitations, your doctor may change medicines to see if that will resolve the issue.
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How Are Heart Palpitations Managed
If you have heart palpitations, or irregular or rapid heartbeats, there are a number of things you can do:
- Try to sit down and relax or find somewhere quiet to rest.
- Keep yourself calm and in a comfortable position.
- Try not to panic as this can make your symptoms worse.
- You may find it helpful to loosen any restrictive clothing that can affect your breathing, such as your collar button and tie.
- Avoid any stimulants that could make your palpitations worse this includes caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and recreational drugs.
If you are concerned about your heart palpitations, please consult your doctor.
When Should You Start Worrying About Palpitations
If you rarely experience these palpitations, and even when they occur, they only last a few minutes, you dont need to see a doctor. Though it can be a terrifying experience, stress, and exercise-induced palpitations are very common. However, if they become increasingly frequent, you should probably consider seeing a doctor.
Palpitations can last for different periods in different individuals.
The most common are palpitations that lost close to 30-minutes.
However, certain people will experience heart palpitations lasting for hours. These can be extremely worrying and may be caused by a disease known as atrial fibrillation.
In certain extreme cases, the individual might experience heart palpitations for days or weeks.
Under these circumstances, you must seek medical health as soon as possible. While there arent many reported cases of individuals suffering from heart palpitations for months, it certainly isnt without the realms of possibility. If certain conditions are left entirely untreated, they could result in heart palpitations for months. Its vital that you learn to identify palpitations symptoms so you can determine if you need to visit a doctor immediately.
Additionally, if the palpitations are accompanied by chest pain, fainting, dizziness, or severe shortness of breath, you should seek emergency medical attention.
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Can Herbal Remedies Help Prevent Heart Palpitations
In terms of herbal remedies, I am not aware of an herbal remedy specifically effective for heart palpitation. I should say that low levels of potassium or magnesium in the body may be associated with palpitations and occasionally even more severe heart rhythm disorders, and in those cases supplements or foods high in potassium and magnesium are quite helpful.
Heart Palpitations And Anxiety
Heart palpitations sometimes can be caused by extreme anxiety, rather than a heart condition. That might lead to a patient needing treatment for a possible anxiety disorder from a psychiatrist.
But we still have to make sure patients are checked out by a cardiologist for any possible heart problems first. We do have some patients who have been diagnosed before with anxiety and know thats whats happening. For the majority of patients, however, we dont want to label their condition as an anxiety attack before knowing for sure that there isnt a heart problem we need to address.
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How Accurate Are Electrocardiograms
An electrocardiogram is a representation of the electrical activity of the heart in multiple views. It records about 12 seconds and patients with palpitations may or may not have an abnormality on their EKG during that time. That is why many physicians use ambulatory EKGs or Holter monitors to try to make a diagnosis.
The other benefit of the standard EKG is that it may reveal evidence of other things that may be wrong with the heart such as an old heart attack or other electrical abnormalities that may provide important clues to an underlying diagnosis that the palpitations represent. So an electrocardiogram is a valuable part of a heart evaluation, but is not particularly sensitive for detecting heart rhythm abnormalities.
First What Are Heart Palpitations Exactly
Generally when we talk about palpitations, it means youre aware of your heart beating, and it feels like its not normal, Shephal Doshi, M.D., director of cardiac electrophysiology at Providence Saint Johns Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells SELF.
If you ask four people with heart palpitations to describe them, you might get four varying answers. When people say, I have heart palpitations, they can mean so many different things that you have to tease out some details as to what exactly they feel, Sanjiv Patel, M.D., cardiologist at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells SELF.
People often mistake normal heart activity for heart palpitations too. Some people are very attuned to their bodies, feel their hearts beating faster and think its a palpitation, but its still beating at a normal speed of up to 100 beats a minute, Dr. Patel says. Which is all to say that the symptoms of heart palpitations arent cut and dry.
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Treatment And Prevention Of Heart Palpitations
Unless your doctor discovers your heart palpitations are a result of an underlying condition that requires treatment, theres not a ton that needs to be done. That said, if for whatever reason you dont want to deal with heart palpitationsbecause hey, maybe you want to save yourself the stress of wondering whats going onthe main thing you can do is address triggers, according to the Mayo Clinic. This might mean avoiding or curbing your intake of stimulants like coffee or working on reducing your stress through deep breathing, exercise, or looking into professional help for anxiety if needed.
Beyond that, remember that most heart palpitations are harmlessas long as you keep an eye on the signs its something more serious, you can trust that your heart is doing what its supposed to in order to keep your blood pumping.
Explaining Arrhythmia: What You Need To Know About Symptoms And Treatments
At the University of Chicago Medicine Center for Arrhythmia Care, our team concentrates on advanced therapies for complex arrhythmias, namely atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia. In particular, we specialize in catheter ablation, which offers the possibility to cure common heart conditions.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Heart Palpitations And Anxiety
Symptoms of heart palpitations include:
- Fluttering: Some people sense a flapping or fluttery feeling in the chest. Your heart may feel like its flipping.
- Irregular heartbeat: You might feel like your heart skips a beat or beats out of rhythm. You may become aware of your heart rate speeding up and slowing down. You may also feel as if your heart pauses for a second or two.
- Pounding: Your heart might beat forcefully or very strongly. Some people say they can feel their heart beating in their ears.
Understanding When Heart Palpitations Become Problematic
Songwriters have used phrases like skipped a beat, racing, pounding, and fluttering to describe the effect that love has on the heart. These are the same words doctors could use to describe potentially worrisome heart palpitations.
Palpitations are usually harmless. Exercise, stress, medication, or even caffeine can provoke palpitations. If they happen frequently or last for longer periods, it could be an indicator of a more serious heart condition like an irregular heartbeat, an overactive thyroid, or heart disease.
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What Causes Heart Palpitations
Many things can cause palpitations. Some causes of heart palpitations include:
- Heart-related causes. People who have an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia may have palpitations. Most of the time, palpitations and irregular heartbeats are harmless. However, sometimes the break in your hearts normal rhythm can be a serious problem. You also may have palpitations if you have problems with the valves in your heart. Valves help move blood through the heart.
- Non-heart-related causes. Certain medicines, herbal supplements, and illegal street drugs can make your heart beat faster. Medicines that can cause palpitations include asthma inhalers and decongestants. Caffeine , alcohol, and tobacco can also cause palpitations. People who have panic disorder feel their heart pounding when they are fearful of something. They also feel it when they are having a panic attack. Some medical conditions, such as thyroid disease and anemia, also can cause palpitations.
Sometimes the cause of palpitations cannot be found. This happens in about 1 of every 7 people who have palpitations. Palpitations in these people usually are not harmful.
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- What is the likely cause of my heart palpitations?
- Will I need to wear a heart monitor? For how long?
- Would it be helpful if I kept track of my palpitations? Do I need to track anything else, such as what I ate or my physical activity?
- Do my heart palpitations indicate a more serious problem?
- What are some symptoms that would indicate my condition is getting worse?
- Will I need to change my lifestyle, such as diet and exercise habits?
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How Are Heart Palpitations Treated
Treatment of heart palpitations depends on what is causing them. Usually, there will be no treatment as the palpitations arent serious.
If you have a heart condition like an arrhythmia or atrial fibrillation, you may be sent to a specialist for treatment with medications, surgery or an implantable device.
Living With Heart Palpitations
If you can understand what is causing your palpitations, you will likely be able to manage them. You will be able to avoid known triggers, like diet pills, caffeine, and cold/cough medicines.
Palpitations that are caused by anxiety or stress are sometimes harder to control. The anxiety can cause the palpitations, and the palpitations can create anxiety. These often make up a seemingly endless cycle. In these cases, your doctor may prescribe a medication to help ease anxiety.
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When To See A Gp
You do not usually need to see a GP if the palpitations pass quickly and only happen occasionally. They’re unlikely to be caused by a serious problem and probably will not need treatment.
But it’s a good idea to see a GP if:
- the palpitations last a long time, do not improve or get worse
- you have a history of heart problems
- you’re concerned about the palpitations
To help find the cause, a GP may:
- ask about your symptoms and medical history
- arrange a blood test
- carry out an electrocardiogram to check your heart rate
If you cannot have an ECG at the GP surgery or the GP wants to arrange heart monitoring over a longer time period, you may be referred for tests at a local hospital.
How Your Heart Works
Your heart has a right side and a left side, separated by a wall. Each side has a small collecting chamber , which leads into a large pumping chamber . There are four chambers the left atrium and right atrium , and the left ventricle and right ventricle .
Normally, the upper chambers of your heart contract first and push blood into the lower chambers . The ventricles then contract the right ventricle pumping blood to your lungs and the left ventricle pumping blood to the rest of your body.
In a healthy heart, heartbeats are set off by tiny electrical signals that come from your hearts natural pacemaker a small area of your heart called the sinus node, located in the top of the right atrium. These signals travel rapidly throughout the atria to make sure that all the hearts muscle fibres contract at the same time, pushing blood into the ventricles.
These same electrical signals are passed on to the ventricles via the atrioventricular node and cause the ventricles to contract a short time later, after they have been filled with blood from the atria. This normal heart rhythm is called the sinus rhythm, because it is controlled by the sinus node.
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What Are The Symptoms Of An Arrhythmia
It depends on the arrhythmia: If your heart rate is too slow, you can feel tired, dizzy or even faint. If your heart rate is too fast, it can feel like your heart is racing or pounding in the chest. Some patients can be desensitized to abnormal heart rhythms. Fatigue and poor exercise tolerance are common symptoms of many arrhythmias. So everything from feeling nothing to fatigue, shortness of breath, heart pounding and fainting is the spectrum of what we see with arrhythmias.
Risks For A Racing Heart
Everyone has the potential for heart palpitations. Theres a good chance youve felt them yourself. There are some risk factors, however, that can contribute to developing palpitations. They include:
- Being highly stressed
- Taking cold or asthma medicines containing stimulants
- An overactive thyroid
- Having heart problems
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Why Do Heart Palpitations Happen
Your heart beats because it has the very important job of sending oxygen-rich blood and nutrients to every part of your body, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute . It also sends the carbon dioxide your body produces as a waste product to your lungs so you can expel it. When theres a glitch in this system, you might experience a palpitation.
Typically, your heart knows when to squeeze based on electrical impulses from a group of cells known as your sinoatrial node, according to the NHLBI. These cells are housed in your hearts right chamber, also known as its right atrium. If your SA node starts sending wonky electrical impulses, you might experience heart palpitations.
Further Testing For Heart Palpitations
In most cases, we see patients in the emergency department whose palpitations have either gone away or arent critical by the time they arrive. Like a car problem that clears up when you visit the mechanic, this can be frustrating for patients.
We reassure them that just because we dont see an abnormal heart rhythm now doesnt mean that they didnt have one before. We check for any signs of damage or injury, and we may monitor patients for a few hours at the emergency department to see if they have another episode of palpitions, but there may not be enough time to capture an abnormal heart rhythm that comes and goes.
We often refer patients who have had heart palpitations to a cardiologist in the MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute. For example, we might diagnose an abnormal heart rhythm in the emergency department, but its not something that needs emergency treatment. Or we might not see evidence of an abnormal heart rhythm, but we think the patient could benefit from additional monitoring to rule out possible heart problems.
A normal heartbeat is easy to take for granted. So when we feel heart palpitations, it can be very scary. But with quick medical attention and advanced monitoring, your heart can beat steadily for a long time to come.
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