Do you have palpitations? Here is what they are and what they indicate


They can be embarrassing or scary.

However, they are usually not serious or harmful and often go away on their own.

Most of the time, they are caused by stress and anxiety, or because you have consumed too much caffeine, nicotine or alcohol.

They can also occur when you are pregnant.

In rare cases, palpitations can be a sign of more serious heart disease.

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If you have heart palpitations, see your doctor. Get immediate medical attention if they come with:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting

Once your doctor has taken your medical history and examined you, they may order tests to find the cause. If they find one, the right treatment can reduce or eliminate the palpitations.

If there is no underlying cause, lifestyle changes may help, including stress management.

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Causes of Heart Palpitations

There may be many. Usually the palpitations are either related to your heart or the cause is unknown.

Non-heart-related causes include:

  • Strong emotions like anxiety, fear or stress. They often occur during panic attacks.
  • Vigorous physical activity
  • Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, or illegal drugs like cocaine and amphetamines
  • Medical conditions including thyroid disease, low blood sugar, anemia, low blood pressure, fever, and dehydration
  • Hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy or just before menopause. Sometimes palpitations during pregnancy are signs of anemia.
  • Medicines, including diet pills, decongestants, asthma inhalers, and some medicines used to prevent arrhythmias (a serious heart rhythm problem) or treat an underactive thyroid
  • Certain herbal and nutritional supplements
  • Abnormal electrolyte levels

Some people have heart palpitations after large meals high in carbohydrates, sugar, or fat. Sometimes eating foods high in monosodium glutamate (MSG), nitrates, or sodium can also cause them.

If you have heart palpitations after eating certain foods, it may be due to food sensitivity.

Keeping a food diary can help you figure out which foods to avoid.

They can also be linked to heart disease.

When they are, they are more likely to represent an arrhythmia.

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Heart conditions linked to palpitations include:

  • Previous heart attack
  • coronary artery disease
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Heart valve problems
  • heart muscle problems
  • At the doctor’s

Your doctor:

  • Give you a physical exam
  • Write down your medical history
  • You want to know your current medications, diet and lifestyle
  • Ask for details about the timing, frequency and circumstances of your palpitations

Sometimes a blood test can help your doctor find the cause of your palpitations.

Other useful tests include:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): This can be done while you are resting or exercising. This is called a stress ECG. Either way, the test records electrical signals from your heart and can detect unusual heart rhythms.
  • Holter monitoring: You will wear a monitor on your chest. It continuously records your heart’s electrical signals for 24 to 48 hours. It can identify rhythm differences that were not detected during an electrocardiogram.
  • Event recording: You will wear a device on your chest and use a wearable gadget to record your heart’s electrical signals when symptoms occur.
  • Chest x-ray: Your doctor will check your lungs for any changes that could be from heart problems. For example, if they find fluid in your lungs, it may be from heart failure.
  • Echocardiogram: This is an ultrasound of your heart. It provides detailed information about its structure and function.

If needed, your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist for further testing or treatment.

Treatment of palpitations

It depends on their cause. Often the palpitations are harmless and go away on their own. In this case, no treatment is necessary.

If your doctor can’t find a cause, they may advise you to avoid things that could trigger the palpitations.

Strategies can include:

Soothe anxiety and stress. Leave a stressful situation and try to stay calm. Anxiety, stress, fear or panic can cause palpitations.

Here are some other common ways to stay calm:

  • relaxation exercises
  • Yoga
  • tai chi
  • Biofeedback
  • Guided Imagery
  • aromatherapy

Cut out certain foods, drinks and other substances.

These may include:

  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine
  • Caffeine
  • Illegal drugs

Avoid drugs that act as stimulants.

You may need to avoid:

  • Cough and cold medicines
  • Certain herbal and nutritional supplements

If lifestyle changes don’t help, you may be prescribed medication.

In some cases, it will be beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers.

If your doctor finds a reason for your palpitations, they will focus on treating that reason.

If they are caused by medication, your doctor will try to find a different treatment.

If they represent an arrhythmia, you may receive medications or procedures.

You may also be referred to a heart rhythm specialist called an electrophysiologist.

Read also :

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Heart failure: symptoms and possible treatments

What is heart failure and how do you recognize it?

Heart: what is a heart attack and how do we intervene?

Source:

WebMD

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