Complications Of Heart Palpitations
Heart palpitations that are caused by a heart condition can lead to several complications, including:
- Cardiac arrest In rare cases, heart palpitations are caused by life-threatening arrhythmias that prohibit the heart from beating properly.
- Stroke Some heart palpitations happen as a result of atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation can cause blood clots that could block an artery in the brain and lead to a stroke.
- Heart failure If your heart is pumping blood inefficiently, it can cause heart palpitations that may lead to heart failure if not properly managed.
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.
Why Is My Heart Beating So Fast
Dehydration can cause heart palpitations. Thats because your blood contains water, so when you become dehydrated, your blood can become thicker. The thicker your blood is, the harder your heart has to work to move it through your veins. That can increase your pulse rate and potentially lead to palpitations.
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What Can Cause Heart Palpitations At Night
- stimulants, such as caffeine, nicotine, over-the-counter medications containing pseudoephedrine, or drugs like cocaine or amphetamines.
- medical conditions, such as anemia, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, or thyroid disease.
- fatigue or lack of sleep.
- depression or anxiety.
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.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Heart Palpitation
Younger children may not be able to describe exactly what they are feeling when this happens, although sometimes they will say that their heart is “beeping” fast.
If your child experiences any of the following along with heart palpitations, you should make an appointment with your primary care pediatrician right away.
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
What Is The Outlook For People With Heart Palpitations At Night
Most people with heart palpitations at night dont require treatment. If palpitations happen from time to time, they arent usually dangerous. Many people find relief from heart palpitations at night after making changes to their diet or lifestyle. These changes may include avoiding alcohol and managing stress.
If you have heart palpitations that result from a heart problem, thyroid disease or other health condition, talk to your provider about your prognosis. To relieve your symptoms, your provider will treat the condition thats causing them.
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Sign: You Feel Like Somethings Not Right
Dr. Zeitler advises following your intuitionif you feel like your heart is beating strangely, its best to get it checked out. Its one of those situations where you have to listen to your body, she says. If it feels like youre dying or you might die, or you pass out or you have an accident because youre passing out, those are reasons to seek attention in an emergency room. Otherwise, you can generally wait to see your primary care doctor, which would be a really good first step. Your primary care doctor can decide when the right time is to refer you to a cardiologist or a heart rhythm specialist. Youll want to know about these 30 ways to prevent heart disease and stroke.
Heart Palpitations: When Should You Worry
It seems as though almost everyone has heard a cautionary tale about heart health. An unrecognized symptom, an undetected heart condition, or pushing your heart to its maximum capacity during practice or time outdoors can all produce a dangerous, and sometimes fatal, result. Stories like these have prompted awareness about heart conditions and heart health, and have also helped to increase knowledge of which symptoms to keep an eye out for.
Heart palpitations, the feeling of a rapid, fluttering, pounding, or otherwise irregular heartbeat, is one of those symptoms. When these occur during physical activity or on particularly warm days, its a cue to slow or stop what youre doing. However, heart palpitations arent exclusive to situations like these. Anyone can be affected by that feeling of a fluttering heart, which is why understanding the causes and concerns associated with it can help you determine whether or not to worry.
Heart palpitations can be alarming, because your heartbeat feels abnormal, explains Richard R. McCurdy Jr., MD, Lankenau Heart Institute cardiologist at Riddle Hospital, part of Main Line Health. Fortunately, most palpitations are not dangerous and often can be explained by external factors.
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Different Types Of Anxiety Disorders
Each type of anxiety disorder has its own unique symptoms:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
A person with generalized anxiety disorder has frequent or constant feelings of worry and anxiety about issues, such as health, work, social interactions, or everyday situations. These feelings can cause problems in areas of your life such as school, work, and social interactions. In some cases, people with GAD have experienced these feelings since childhood or adolescence, while in other cases, they may have been triggered by temporary stress.
Sign: You Often Have Palpitations
Depending on the exact causes, some patients may have symptoms infrequently, while others may have several continuous episodes a day, sometimes with each episode lasting for several minutes at a time, Dr. Lau says. Chances are, if palpitations are only occurring rarely, you dont need to rush to the doctor. Less serious causes for palpitations can include stress, anxiety, caffeine, alcohol, illness, or pregnancy, he says. Check out 45 things heart doctors do to protect their own hearts.
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Are Heart Palpitations Serious
Most heart palpitations arent cause for concern. But, there are instances when that fluttering feeling is a sign of something more serious. They can be caused by cardiac arrhythmiaa group of heart conditions that make the heart beat too slowly or too quickly. The most common types include:
- Atrial fibrillation or AFib
- Supraventricular tachycardia
Evaluating Your Heart Palpitations
If you suspect youre suffering from anxiety, the good news is that the accompanying heart palpitations may feel awful, but they arent usually medically serious. In most cases, the heart palpitations subside as you de-stress and your body and mind relax.
If this doesnt occur and youre unsure whether your heart palpitations are related to anxiety or a more serious issue with your hearts rhythm, we urge you to come see us. Well get to the bottom of the issue.
To determine whether theres a functional problem with your heart, we perform certain diagnostic tests at our office, including:
- An electrocardiogram to evaluate electrical function
- An echocardiogram to check the structures of your heart
We can also outfit you with a portable monitor to measure your hearts function throughout the day as you engage in normal activities.
If we find that your heart function is normal, anxiety is the likely culprit behind your heart palpitations. But theres good news: If we detect a problem, were able to act quickly to resolve it.
Again, if youre having trouble with persistent heart palpitations, we urge you to err on the side of caution and come see us. To get started, contact our office in Little Rock, Arkansas, to set up an appointment.
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Testing And Diagnosis Of Heart Palpitations
If your child experiences heart palpitations without any other symptoms, you should keep a log of when palpitations occur and under what conditions, then talk to your primary care pediatrician at a regular checkup. If the palpitations occur often and you are concerned, call your doctor or make an appointment to discuss the issue.
If you are able to check your childs heart rate by taking the pulse or touching the chest directly when the palpitations occur, that information will be helpful to your doctor. Ask your pediatrician for information on how to check your child’s heart rate.
Your pediatrician may also refer you to a pediatric cardiologist, a doctor who specializes in heart problems in children. He or she will perform a full evaluation of your child’s health, including getting a medical history and performing an examination. He may order heart tests such as an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, stress test or, rarely, cardiac catheterization.
Your child may also have to wear a Holter monitor, which records the heart rhythm over 24 hours. Another type of monitor that your doctor may have your child wear is a loop recorder, which is worn for one month but records only when the child pushes a button on the recorder at the time of an event of palpitations.
Based on the results of these tests, your pediatric cardiologist will determine whether your child has an arrhythmia, which is an irregular heartbeat caused by a problem with the heart’s built-in electrical system.
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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How To Stop Heart Palpitations
In most cases, the way to try to stop heart palpitations is to support heart rate variability, a measurement which indicates how your body is responding to everyday stressors. High heart rate variability indicates a healthy response, while low heart rate variability is linked to the development of heart disease and other diseases.
In other words, you want to balance your autonomic nervous system activity . For most people this means engaging in regular stress reduction techniques: introducing practices like prayer, meditation, yoga, tai chi, or breathing exercises into your life. Most any relaxation therapy will be helpful in calming the heart.
- Earthing the body, a magnificently simple way to restore a natural electrical state in your physiology and reduce the impact of stress on your nervous system. Youll also experience better sleep and less pain in the process. I have had a number of people tell me their PVCs have disappeared or minimized with Earthing.
- Cutting down on caffeine, sugar, alcohol, chocolate, food additives , and colorings, all of which have the potential to trigger PVCs. Even decaf coffee and tea maybe a problem for people who are exceptionally sensitive to caffeine. Green tea has a bit of caffeine in it. If you have PVCs, try avoiding it.
If youre experiencing PVCs whether a chronic coffee or tea drinker or not I still recommend avoiding caffeine to see if it helps.
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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What Are The Health Risks Of Experiencing Heart Palpitations
The irregularity of the heart rhythm per se usually does no damage to the heart itself. Patients with a very rapid heart over a long period of time do run a risk of developing enlargement and failure of the heart.
We see heart enlargment with a very common cause of palpitations called atrial fibrillation. Patients can be in atrial fibrillation for many years without harm, but some patients with very little symptoms may have too rapid and irregular a rhythm present with symptoms of heart failure. There may also be some increased risk of stroke because of blood clots that can form in association with atrial fibrillation.
Distinguishing Between Benign And Serious Palpitations
Regularly occurring heart palpitations may be due to an artery blockage or some form of cardiovascular disease. To determine the cause of your heart flutters, your healthcare provider may refer you to a cardiologist for additional tests, such as:
- Echocardiogram to see if the heart walls and valves are working as they should be
- Stress test to see how heart function and breathing are impacted by exertion
- Electrocardiogram to identify abnormal heart rhythms
- A Holter monitora portable ECG device that continuously records heart rhythms for 24 to 48 hours
Be sure to seek medical attention or call 911 if youre experiencing any of the following symptoms in addition to palpitations:
- Chest pain/tightness
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
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Next Time You Get Heart Palpitations Try This
If you feel your heart pounding, use these strategies:
- Relax: Lower your stress levels by using relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation and deep breathing. These techniques can help bring your heart rate back to normal.
- Reach for some water: Dehydration can cause a heart palpitation, so if your heart flutters, chug some H20.
- Workout: Exercise keeps your heart healthy and increases your heart rate, which can prevent palpitations. Try a brisk walk around your neighborhood.
- Cough: Vagal maneuvers, such as coughing or throwing cold water on your face, can stimulate the vagus nerve which helps regulate heart rate. Talk to your doctor first before performing vagal maneuvers at home.
While heart palpitations often cause a lot of discomfort, most of the time they aren’t dangerous. If you can perform those at-home tips to temporarily relieve discomfort, then you can always decide if you want to see a cardiologist.
How To Stop Health Palpitations
Before discussing treatment, your healthcare provider will need to know your history: how long you have had palpitations, how long they last for, whether there are certain movements or circumstances that cause themalong with any underlying health conditions. Palpitations may signify something different in someone with anemia versus someone with underlying lung disease versus someone with structural heart disease or heart failure, says Nupoor Narula, MD, assistant professor of medicine in cardiology at Weill Cornell Medical College.
For milder cases of heart fluttering, lifestyle adjustments help to decrease the frequency, or help to slow a racing heartbeat. For more severe, frequent palpitations medication or a surgical procedure may be required.
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When To Evaluate Heart Palpitations
Palpitations are symptoms of everything from short or long-term stress to a variety of arrhythmias . They may feel alarming, but do not always reflect a serious heart condition. Joseph Marine, M.D., vice-director of the Division of Cardiology at Johns Hopkins, starts his evaluation by asking his patients what they hear.
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.
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