Don’t skip a beat – Everything you need to know about heart palpitations
Hey, your heart just skipped a beat, must be because you saw a fair lady, right? Be it skipping, fluttering, in romantic situations or stressful situations, fact remains, when your heart beats at an abnormal rate, even for a few seconds or so, it can feel quite alarming. Allow us to give you a couple of heart racing facts about the heart and its beats.
Essentially, heart palpitations occur when it feels as though your heart is beating too fast or hard or as though it’s skipped a beat. This sensation may occur in your throat, neck or chest. While it may seem frightening, more often than not, it isn’t anything serious to worry about.
Causes of heart palpitations
Some common causes of heart palpitations include stress, anxiety, a caffeine overload, alcohol or nicotine. They are also known to occur during pregnancy. Furthermore, consuming certain medications, illegal drugs or selected supplements may also bring about heart palpitations. A few more serious causes may include low blood sugar levels, anaemia, low blood pressure, fever, thyroid disease or dehydration.
When is it time to worry?
In some instances, palpitations may be a sign of a serious heart condition. In serious cases, your palpitations will be accompanied by shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and, in extreme cases, fainting. Should this be the case, we advise you seek medical attention.
What happens next?
Your doctor will take your medical history and give you a physical exam. He or she may order a few tests to determine the cause and find the right treatment to reduce or eliminate the palpitations. Sometimes it can be as simple as making a few lifestyle changes.
Your doctor may order a blood test and/or an Electrocardiogram, also known as a stress EKG to record your heart’s electrical signals to determine unusual heart rhythms. You may be requested to wear a monitor on your chest for anything between 24 to 48 hours to monitor your heart’s electrical signals. Chest X-rays and echocardiograms, an ultrasound of your heart, may also help determine serious causes of heart palpitations.
If stress or anxiety is the culprit, you may be advised to make a few lifestyle changes to lower your stress levels. Activities such as relaxation exercises, yoga, guided imagery or Tai chi may help reduce your stress and anxiety. Cutting out caffeine, alcohol and nicotine may also make a big difference.
If, however, the cause is rather more sinister, your medical professional will advise on the way forward and come up with a treatment plan that may involve medications or, in extreme cases, surgery.
Don’t feel embarrassed to visit the doctor when this occurs even once, rather get to the bottom of it as soon as possible. This article should be taken as a guideline and not as the advice of a trained medical professional. Should you feel any symptoms, we strongly advise that you visit a medical professional near you.