Heart Palpitations

By on November 28, 2012

Heart palpitations, while often common and benign, can also be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. However, most of us from time to time have been rather caught off guard and alarmed by the sudden onset of this condition.

Heart palpitations are often characterized by an onset of a racing heart rate, a feeling of your heart skipping a beat or two, or a fluttering sensation and similar sensations in your neck, throat or chest. These symptoms can often be concerning and uncomfortable but will often resolve on their own as many times they are associated with anxiety, stress and pregnancy. They can also be brought on by an excessive intake of caffeine, alcohol or nicotine.

However, in some cases, heart palpitations can be a warning sign of a heart condition particularly if you are also experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, pain in the chest, dizziness and fainting. For this reason, it is always important to be evaluated immediately by a physician to rule out or treat a more serious condition.

Common Causes of Palpitations
In the majority of cases, heart palpitations tend to be caused by one or more of the following:
• Intense emotions such as fear, stress, anxiety and anxiety related to panic attacks
• Certain substances such as nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, cocaine, amphetamines and other illegal street drugs.
• Intense physical activity
• Medical conditions such as low blood sugar, low blood pressure, dehydration, anemia, fever or thyroid disease
• Medications such as decongestants, diet pills, asthma inhalers, medications aimed at preventing arrhythmias or medications that treat hypothyroidism
• Poor electrolyte levels
• Some nutritional, natural or herbal dietary supplements
• Fluctuations in hormones due to menstruation, menopause or pregnancy

Many people have reported heart palpitations following heavy meals rich in fat, sugar, nitrates, sodium or monosodium glutamate (MSG) or carbohydrates. If you notice your palpitations often follow certain foods you have eaten, it is important to determine the foods that are causing the symptoms so that you can avoid them in the future.

When heart palpitations could possibly indicate heart disease, the symptoms are likely to also present themselves as an irregular rhythm in the normal cadence of the heartbeat. Symptoms such as these tend to be more likely to be caused by or indicative of:

• Coronary artery disease
• A previous heart attack
• Complications with a heart valve
• Heart muscle complications
• Congestive heart failure

Detection
Upon visiting your doctor for this condition, they will first perform a full physical examination. This will include taking a comprehensive look at your entire medical history, noting any current over-the-counter or prescription medications you may be taking, and evaluating your lifestyle and diet. Often times, a simple blood test can indicate that the palpitations are a result of an electrolyte issue, anaemia, or any thyroid issues. Additional testing may be necessary in the form of:

• An Electrocardiogram or ECG: This test can be performed either lying down or as a Stress ECG, which is performed while you are exercising. Both tests detect any abnormalities in the rhythm of the heart through electrical signals.
• Holter Monitor: This monitor is worn over a one to two day period on the chest for continuous evaluation of the heart’s electrical signals and rhythm abnormalities that an ECG might have missed.
• X-Ray: An x-ray of the chest might be performed for evaluation of the size of the heart and any other visible abnormalities
• Event Recording: This is another device that is worn on the chest to monitor symptoms. A handheld device is used in accordance with this option to indicate when the symptoms are occurring.
• Echocardiogram: The heart is examined by an ultrasound in order to receive more detailed information regarding its function and structure.
• Additional Testing: If the above provides no further insight into the condition, your doctor may refer you to a Cardiologist for further testing or treatment.

Prevention and Treatment
Treating heart palpitations largely depends on what is causing the condition. Typically, they are found to be benign and will dissipate on their own in time. No treatment is necessary in these instances. However, if a direct cause is established, your doctor will likely recommend that you avoid whatever perpetuates the condition by:

Nisha represents a site called http://www.mhaauchlochan.org.uk/HomePage.aspx. She enjoys writing about health and fitness.

About News Editor