Categories: Cardiology

Heart Palpitations: What Should I Watch Out for?

In medical terms, the sensation of your heart racing, heavily fluttering or pounding is known as palpitation. Heart palpitations occur when you get the feeling of your heart skipping a beat or altering the rhythm altogether. As a result, you become unpleasantly aware of your heartbeat surrounding your check and throat regions. Most heart palpitations are harmless, but in certain isolated cases, they can be indications of severe complications.

Heart Palpitations: What causes them?

There are several reasons for heart palpitations that are because of unhealthy lifestyle choices which contribute significantly to heart palpitations symptoms.

  • Anxiety, stress, fear or panic attacks
  • Caffeine and nicotine intake
  • Diet pills
  • Vigorous exercise
  • Illegal hard drugs and alcohol abuse
  • Hormonal fluctuations due to pregnancy

Some heart palpitations can be worrisome, especially those due to arrhythmia or abnormal heart rhythm. This major cardiac health issue arises due to:

  • Abnormal blood electrolyte levels
  • Low blood sugar
  • Medicines used to treat hypertension or asthma
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Heart disease and abnormal heart valve
  • Hypoxemia or low blood oxygen levels

Types of Heart Palpitations –

Arrhythmia gives rise to the following kinds of heart palpitations:

  • Atrial Fibrillation: Also known as AFib, atrial fibrillation happens when the upper chambers of the heart flutter causing irregular heartbeats and can lead to cardiac arrest or heart failure.
  • Supraventricular Tachycardia: An umbrella term that encapsulates many forms of heart arrhythmias, this occurs when electrical impulses controlling heartbeats function abnormally. These originate about the ventricles in the atrial-ventricular node region.
  • Ventricular Tachycardia: This issue arises due to faulty signals in the heart ventricles, resulting in your heart beating faster than usual.

Premature Ventricular Contractions:

PVCs are essentially extra heartbeats that take place when the ventricles squeeze too early. This causes heart palpitations resulting in your heart racing and abnormally fluttering. PVCs are not serious unless you have a major cardiac disease.

Doctor recommended tests for Heart Palpitations 

If your cardiologist suspects that your heart palpitations are due to arrhythmia, the following tests might be recommended:

  1. Chest X-rays: To test for the presence of fluid in your lungs that comes from heart failure
  2. Electrocardiogram: Records your heart’s electrical signals both when you are resting and exercising. The latter is done to test your stress levels.
  3. Holter Monitoring: By attaching a monitor to your chest for 24-48 hours, this tests discrepancies in your heart rhythm.
  4. Event Recording: A device is attached to your chest which is connected o a handheld device to monitor changes in heart rhythm.
  5. Echocardiography: Provides detailed information about heart structure and function by conducting an ultrasound examination.

Heart Palpitations Treatment: What are my options?

There are no specific heart palpitations treatments as this condition occurs due to other primary reasons. If your condition is temporary and harmless, no medical treatment is required. For heart palpitations that arise due to arrhythmia, cardiologists may prescribe certain medications.

Heart racing and heart flutter symptoms due to the abnormal cardiac rhythm are generally treated with antiarrhythmic prescription drugs like beta-blockers that follows a calcium channel blocker therapy utilizing non-dihydropyridine to help slow heart rate and lessen blood pressure. Other direct drugs are also administered that primarily target the calcium and potassium channels of the heart.

Lifestyle Changes

In most cases of heart palpitations treatments, doctors advise simple lifestyle changes that can go a long way in reducing heart palpitations by avoiding the trigger points that cause the heart to flutter. Of course, these will only show results when the patient does not have prior heart diseases or does not suffer from arrhythmia. These include:

  • Cutting back on and eventually quitting alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine to avoid stimulants
  • Avoiding over-the-counter medications without doctor’s prescriptions
  • Working towards reducing stress and anxiety through practising yoga, taking up hobbies, meditation and breathing exercises
  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet is a great home remedy for palpitations
  • Regular exercise and proper sleep schedule

Heart Palpitations FAQs

Here are some important answers to questions that are most asked by patients suffering from heart palpitations:

  • Why is my heart racing?

Irregular heartbeats give you the feeling of your heart racing when it skips a beat or adds an extra one. In most cases, it happens due to stress or anxiety or maybe because you have had too much caffeine, nicotine or alcohol. It can also happen due to pregnancy. While these reasons for heart palpitations are not serious, there are certain cases where it may be a sign of serious heart disease. Consult a doctor in case this persists.

  • Is heart flutter a cause for concern?

Heart flutter and pounding sensations are normal and can arise due to stress or because of the consumption of stimulants. Heart palpitations are harmless by nature, but in rare cases, they may be an indication of underlying heart diseases.

  • What are the home remedies for palpitation?

Heart palpitations can be taken care of at home. You need to carry out several lifestyle changes as a home remedy for palpitations like quitting caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol, staying away from hard drugs, practising yoga, meditation, and regular exercise.

    • What does a heart palpitation feel like?

Heart palpitation symptoms show when your heart skips a beat or adds another one. You become overly aware of your heartbeat in your chest and neck area. Palpitations feel like a series of escalated heart flutter, pounding and racing heart.

When to visit a Cardiologist?

Normally, the heart beats 60 to 100 times every minute and we are almost unaware of it. We might feel the occasional palpitations which may not always be a serious issue. But if these heart palpitations symptoms persist, you need to visit a cardiologist immediately to check up for pressing cardiological diseases.

Dr. Mallesh P, Consultant – Cardiology – AdultSS Narayana Heart Centre, Davangere

Narayana Health

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