Beating of the heart too hard or too fast may sometimes result in heart palpitations. This condition isn’t really serious or harmful, but it can prove to be harmful in rare cases. It has been reported that palpitations are the reason for 30-40% referrals to cardiology clinics. Heart palpitations are common in individuals with healthy hearts. However, heart palpitations can be a symptom of a serious illness like asthma, coronary heart disease, or emphysema. Basically, people notice heart palpitations in the form of skipping a beat or fluttering in their chest, throat, or neck.
Here in this article, we shall give a detailed account of Heart Palpitation’s symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment.
What are the causes of heart palpitations?
Behind any disease or illness, there are various causes or factors. Same in the case of heart palpitations, so below are the main causes that contribute to heart palpitations, these are:
- Extra-cardiac stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system – It means an inappropriate stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, mainly the vagus nerve (which innervates the heart) caused by anxiety and stress. Vagus nerve induced heart palpitations are felt as a hollow fluttery sensation, or a skipped beat, depending at what point during the heart’s normal rhythm, the vagus nerve fires. Basically, anxiety and palpitations have a common relation as physical and mental stress may contribute to the occurrence of palpitations. Furthermore, gastrointestinal bloating and indigestion are also associated with overstimulation of the vagus nerve causing palpitations
- Sympathetic overdrive – These include panic disorders, hypoxia, hypoglycemia, antihistamines, anemia, and heart failure
- Hyperdynamic circulation – This condition happens due to valvular incompetence, hypercapnia, pyrexia, thyrotoxicosis, anemia, and pregnancy
- Cardiac dysrhythmias – This condition of heart palpitations is caused by ectopic beat, junctional escape beat, premature atrial contraction, atrial fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, and heart block
There are various other causes like lifestyle factors that may trigger heart palpitations, these include exercise, a thyroid problem, low blood sugar, certain medications like diet pills, decongestants, and asthma inhalers, or consumption of stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol. Moreover, sometimes pregnancy may also contribute to palpitations.
Symptoms of heart palpitations:
Most of the times, people experiencing palpitations may not be aware of getting it. People may feel abnormal heart rhythms, which can be momentary or prolonged. Basically, actual or near blackouts associated with palpitations should be taken seriously by the people because they often indicate the presence of heart disease. Moreover, some of the common symptoms of heart palpitations are:
- Skipping beats
- Heart beating too fast
- Pumping harder than usual
People may feel heart palpitations in their throat or neck, as well as their chest. They may get attacked by this condition, whether they are active or at rest, or whether they are in an upright seating position or relaxed lying down one.
If palpitations are infrequent and last only a few seconds, then you don’t need an evaluation. You have to be concerned and rush to your doctor about your palpitation problem if you have a history of heart disease and have frequent palpitations that sometimes even get worse. Your doctor may perform certain heart-monitoring tests to figure out the condition. Furthermore, you seek an emergency medical attention if your heart palpitations are accompanied by fainting, shortness of breath, chest discomfort or pain, or severe dizziness.
Tests and diagnoses:
Sometimes, a normal blood test can reveal the presence of abnormalities and help identify the cause of palpitations. Some of the useful tests are mentioned below:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) – An ECG can be done either while you’re in a sedantry position or during an exercise session (stress ECG). This diagnostic test records your heart’s electrical signals and detects abnormalities in the heart’s rhythm
- Holter monitoring – This test includes a Holter monitor, which is worn on the chest that continuously records your heart’s electrical signals for 24 to 48 hours. Holter monitoring test is mainly used to detect the heart palpitations that aren’t found during an ECG exam
- Event recording – If both the above mentioned tests fail to record your irregular heart rhythms, then your doctor may recommend an event recorder test. This test is performed after you wear an event recorder for about a day, which works by pushing a button on the device you wear on your belt to record your heartbeat when you have symptoms
- Echocardiogram – This diagnostic test includes an ultrasound of your chest, which shows detailed images of your heart’s structure and function
Treatment of heart palpitations:
Treatment of heart palpitations is totally depends on the cause and in most of the cases, palpitations are found to be harmless, which often go away on their own. In those cases, treatment is not required. Basically, the only treatment of heart palpitations is by changes in lifestyle and home remedies, and also avoiding the triggers. These are mentioned below:
- Reducing anxiety and stress – If triggers of heart palpitations are due to stress and anxiety, then your doctor will recommend you to perform some common stress-reducing therapies. These may include yoga, meditations, relaxation exercises, tai chi, guided imagery, and aromatherapy
- Avoiding certain beverages and harmful substances – Beverages including caffeinated drinks like coffee, consumption of alcohol, use of nicotine, and other illegal drugs like cocaine or marijuana, you have to quit all these beverages to get relief from heart palpitations
- Avoiding medications – Various medications and supplements may trigger heart palpitations, so to avoid the triggers stop using these
If the lifestyle changes fail to reduce or eliminate the problem of palpitations, then your doctor will prescribe certain medications like beta-blockers or calcium-channel blockers. Additionally, if your doctor finds that your heart palpitations are related to conditions like anemia, then he/she will focus on treating this condition and if your palpitations are caused by certain medications, then your doctor will try to find another medication you can use to get relief.
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