Heart Palpitations

Mostly harmless but occasionally these heart rhythm disruptions signal a more serious condition.

Lately you’ve felt like a flipping fish is stuck inside your chest. You feel fine otherwise, but there it is again-flip, flop is it a sign of a serious heart problem? Chances are what you’re feeling is a condition called heart palpitations, which are usually harmless blips in the heart rhythm.

Symptoms

Heart palpitations come in many different forms:

  • A fluttering feeling in your chest
  • A sensation that your heart is beating too fast
  • A feeling like your heart has skipped a beat
  • or even just a noticeable pounding in your chest or neck

The sensation you feel is often linked to what’s happening in your heart. For example, that flip-flop sensation may occur when one of the upper cavities in the heart (known as the atria) or one of the two main chambers (the ventricles) contracts too soon – disrupting the heart’s rhythm. The heart then plays catch-up, performing a more forceful contraction after that little pause. And that fluttering feeling happens when the ventricle or the atria experience an irregular beat.

Triggers:

  • Stress
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Large amounts of caffeine or alcohol
  • Dehydration
  • Certain medications, such as cough medicine, diet pills or illicit drugs, including cocaine.

Something more serious?

If you have palpitations accompanied by dizziness, weakness or chest pain, you should get them checked out. In some instances, palpitations may be caused by an underlying medical problem such as:

  • Anemia
  • Overactive thyroid
  • Arrhythmia
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low blood pressure

Diagnosing palpitations

Diagnosing heart palpitations can be challenging because these heart rhythm disturbances rarely cooperate. The chance that they will show up during exam is alow.

Once it’s determined that you are experiencing are harmless palpitations, expect them to come and go. They don’t require a lot of attention. But lifestyle changes, including managing stress by exercise and lifestyle modification and avoiding caffeine and other triggers, can help reduce them.

INFOGRAPHICS

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