Palpitations

1 Palpitations Summary

Do you feel that a rapid-pounding sensation in your chest? You might have palpitations and that may make you worried. Palpitations occur when your heart beats so strong that you can feel it.

Normally, many of us do not feel or even aware that our heart is beating. If you have palpitations, you can feel it even if you are doing other things. Palpitations are often uncomfortable, and you may experience anxiety on it. Palpitation is considered a symptom and a medical condition. 

Description of palpitation may somewhat differ in people. Almost all experience repeated pounding of the heart. Some have rapid, fluttering (irregular), or even paused heartbeats.

Despite being worrisome, palpitations are often normal. Pregnant mothers tend to have palpitations as the heart beats faster to supply adequate blood supply to the baby and the mother.

You can have palpitations after exercising or performing strenuous activities. Anxiety, stress, excitement, or rage can induce palpitations. Some people experience palpitations from drinking alcohol or caffeine. Certain drugs and illicit substances can also induce palpitations.

Some people are at risk of having palpitations due to stressful lifestyles. Sustaining several episodes of severe emotional stress may cause you to have palpitations from time to time. Individuals with anxiety disorders or panic disorder may also suffer from bouts of palpitations.

Some people may experience palpitations after eating certain foods or after a heavy meal with plenty of carbs, sugar, fat, or with the seasoning MSG (monosodium glutamate).

Rarely, palpitations may be caused by certain health conditions. Some people experience palpitations due to problems in the thyroid gland or the heart itself. The thyroid gland is found in the neck, and it controls metabolism and heart rate.

Thyroid problems can lead to rapid heartbeats or palpitations. The heart may also sustain problems in its nerve conduction, so it becomes overstimulated and causing palpitations.

Some medical conditions, such as panic disorders, low blood sugar, low oxygen or red blood cells in the blood, or heart failure, may cause the heart to work harder and so cause palpitations.

Normally, palpitations are brief and last no longer than few minutes. Palpitations with other symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, or fainting should be given medical attention.

Individuals with a history of heart disease should see their doctor right away if they experience palpitations. If left untreated, palpitations may cause the patient to lose consciousness, or suffer from stroke, cardiac arrest, or heart failure, which may all cause death.

Palpitations caused by heart conditions should be treated right away. To diagnose, the doctor may hook you up to an electrocardiogram (ECG), Holter monitor, or do an ultrasound to your heart to check for any problems.

For palpitations caused by heart conditions, treating the cause relieves it. Depending on the diagnosed heart condition, treatment may consists of medications or may require close monitoring. If there are no health issues, there are also effective remedies for palpitations that are effective.

2 Causes

You can experience palpitations from time to time, and it is probably normal. Strenuous activities like running, jogging, and brisk walking, lifting weights, or even having sex can often cause palpitations. Normally, palpitations subside shortly once you took a rest.

Another common cause of palpitations in healthy people is certain emotions. Feelings of anxiety, nervousness, rage, or excitement often cause palpitations. Experiencing severe emotional or physical stress can also give you palpitations.

You can also experience palpitations after eating certain food items. Some have palpitations after eating a large meal of carbohydrates, sugary, or fatty food, or after consuming food highly seasoned with salt or monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Certain conditions can cause palpitations in some people, such as pregnancy, or having a fever. Palpitations may also occur due to changes in hormones in the body, which can occur during menses or menopause.

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3 Diagnosis and Treatment

The doctor can easily detect for palpitations using a stethoscope. You also have to give your complete medical history, which includes previous illnesses and treatments, medicines you took, and improvements.

Your doctor may ask for more details about the circumstances where palpitations occurred, and if you experienced other symptoms. This will help your doctor determine if your palpitations are linked to heart disease. If you have a history of heart problems, make sure to tell them to your doctor.

If there is a suspected heart problem, doctors can diagnose it using non-invasive tests. The doctor will measure electrical activity and heart rhythm using an electrocardiogram (ECG) machine, which involves sticking wires on your chest.

ECG can be performed while you are resting or exercising. Exercise ECG may be used to provoke palpitation so the doctor can study your heart’s electrical activity and determine the cause.

Your doctor may hook you to a Holter monitor (portable ECG) if palpitations tend to occur in certain parts of the day. The Holter monitor records your heart’s activity (and palpitations) so it can be examined later.

The doctor may also do an ultrasound on your heart, which can reveal problems such as heart valve disease, heart muscle abnormalities, or heart failure. For other conditions like anemia, thyroid disease, or menopause, the doctor may order blood tests to confirm the diagnosis.

Treating palpitations is often simple. Many cases of palpitations do not require treatment. Your doctor may simply recommend you avoid triggers or do simple remedies to prevent it. For example, you can avoid stimulants, supplements, and illicit substances. Stop taking tobacco, alcohol, or using electronic cigarettes.

If you are stressed or anxious, your doctor will recommend having periods of relaxation. You can achieve relaxation at the end of the day by doing yoga or tai chi, aromatherapy, or reading a good book.

Note that simple relaxation or short rest is helpful in all cases of palpitations. Your doctor will teach you strategies so you can help yourself in case palpitations occur. However, you must call your doctor right away if you have heart disease.

If palpitations are caused by side effect of medications, and there are no other health issues, it is usually not treated. Instead, the doctor may look for other alternative medications.

If there is a heart problem, treating the condition reduce frequency or severity of palpitations. Such conditions should be treated right away to prevent the onset of complications, or worse, heart attack.

The doctor may prescribe medicines called antiarrhythmics that correct irregular or rapid heartbeat. Some examples include Amiodarone, Flecainide, Sotalol, Metoprolol, or Verapamil. Make sure to take these drugs as prescribed by the doctor. Medications are also used to treat thyroid conditions and anxiety disorders that may cause palpitations. 

Some cases of arrhythmias do not need to be treated, while others require having a pacemaker implant, so the heart beats rhythmically. Surgery is indicated only in a few cases. Surgery may be performed to repair or replace faulty heart valves, or cut nerves in the heart to correct rapid heart rate that causes palpitations.

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