What are Heart Palpitations?
Heart palpitations are defined as an unpleasant awareness of a forceful, rapid, or irregular heartbeat. People who experience heart palpitations describe the feeling as if their heart is flip-flopping, fluttering, or forcefully beating. You can often feel the sensation in your chest, throat, or neck areas.
Although palpitations are alarming when you first notice them, most of the time they are harmless and go away on their own.
What Causes Heart Palpitations?
In many cases, there is no clear answer to why people experience heart palpitations.
Sometimes daily habits such as caffeine and nicotine can lead to symptoms. When a person participates in strenuous exercise like lifting weights or running they will often experience a forceful heartbeat. In the case of exercise-induced symptoms, the body is responding in a normal healthy way so there is no need for alarm.
Hormone changes associated with menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause can be factors in palpitations.
Taking cold and cough medications that contain pseudoephedrine, which is a stimulant, may trigger symptoms. As will some types of asthma inhalers, medications that also contain stimulants.
Emotional factors like stress and anxiety can trigger heart palpitations.
On occasion, symptoms can be a sign of a more serious problem like an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) or an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) or even heart disease.
Risk Factors For Heart Palpitations
- Taking medication that contains stimulants
- Overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism)
- Other heart problems (arrhythmia)
When Should I See a Doctor?
If your heart feels like it’s jumping out of your chest after finishing a run you’re probably safe to stay home. If the feeling does not subside quickly or is accompanied by pain and or shortness of breath, you should call 911 as you may be experiencing a heart attack.
Dizziness, fainting, or feeling like you’re going to faint are indicators that you need to see a doctor. If it’s debilitating pain, then there’s a chance of heart attack and you should call 911 immediately.
How will the Doctor Help?
There are several things a doctor looks for when a patient comes in complaining of heart palpitations. The doctor will want to get a better sense of what the heart is doing so they will hook the patient up to an EKG machine. An EKG records the heart’s electrical impulses and creates an electrocardiograph reading. The reading will help physicians learn more about the heart is doing and why it’s doing it. The procedure is painless but quite useful.
The doctor may also check for:
- Anemia: A condition triggered by low red blood cell count. This condition leads to reduced oxygen flow to the body’s organs.
- Hemoglobin Levels: A protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Low hemoglobin count can indicate anemia.
- Electrolytes: Electrolytes balance is essential for normal function of cells and organs. Common electrolytes that doctors test for are potassium, sodium, and magnesium.
How are Heart Palpitations Treated?
Depending on the doctor’s findings several courses of action can be taken.
If it’s something as simple as an electrolyte imbalance, a diet and supplement course of action will be recommended. If it’s stress related there are a variety of medications that can help along with lifestyle changes.
If the prognosis is more serious, a referral to a cardiologist is usually the next step.
For emergency cases where immediate attention is needed, necessary steps for stabilization will take place right here at ER Specialists Urgency Center. We can even admit you to a hospital if needed.
Your heart is the lifeline of your body. Heart disease is currently the number one fatal disease in the country, so we want to make sure your heart is in great shape. It’s vital for your health and longevity that if you think there’s a problem to stop by ER Specialists and let us take a look at what’s going on if you are experiencing palpitations.
We can often quickly rule out most serious issues with a few simple tests, and we have the knowledge and equipment to address any other problems should there be complications.