Heart palpitations occur commonly but can be concerning for individuals who experience them. Palpitations are characterized by a noticeable awareness of the heartbeat or an irregular heartbeat, which can be described as a fluttering or pounding sensation in the chest. While palpitations are usually harmless and short-lived, they can also be an indication of underlying heart problems.
In this edition of the Know your Heart Series, we will discuss heart palpitations in detail, their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.Causes of Heart Palpitations
There are several factors that can lead to heart palpitations, including:
- 1. Physical activity: Strenuous exercise or other physically demanding activities can cause palpitations. This is because the heart beats faster and harder during physical exertion.
- 2. Emotional stress: Anxiety, stress, and other emotional factors can trigger palpitations.
- 3. Stimulants: Caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants can increase heart rate, leading to palpitations.
- 4. Medications: Some medications such as decongestants, asthma inhalers, and thyroid medications can cause palpitations.
- 5. Medical conditions: Heart palpitations can be caused by underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, thyroid disorders, and anaemia.
The symptoms of heart palpitations can vary from person to person. Some common symptoms include:
- 1. A feeling of fluttering or pounding in the chest.
- 2. Sensation of skipped heartbeats or irregular heartbeat.
- 3. Dizziness or light headedness.
- 4. Shortness of breath.
- 5. Sweating.
- 6. Chest pain.
If you experience heart palpitations, it is essential to see a doctor. The doctor may perform several tests, including:
- 1. Electrocardiogram (ECG): This is a test that records the electrical activity of the heart.
- 2. Holter monitoring: This is a portable ECG device that records the heart’s electrical activity for 24-48 hours.
- 3. Echocardiogram: This is an ultrasound of the heart that can detect any structural abnormalities.
- 4. Blood tests: These tests can detect any underlying medical conditions that may be causing palpitations.
Treatment for heart palpitations depends on the underlying cause. In some cases, no treatment may be required, and palpitations may resolve on their own. However, if palpitations are due to an underlying medical condition, treatment may be necessary. Some treatment options include:
- 1. Lifestyle changes: If palpitations are caused by stress, anxiety, or stimulants, lifestyle changes such as reducing caffeine intake, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and reducing stress may help.
- 2. Medications: If palpitations are due to an underlying medical condition, medications such as beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers may be prescribed.
- 3. Cardioversion: This is a medical procedure that uses electrical shocks to restore the heart’s normal rhythm.
- 4. Catheter ablation: This is a procedure that destroys the small areas of heart tissue that are causing the abnormal heart rhythm.
While not all heart palpitations can be prevented, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of experiencing them:
- 1. Reduce stress and anxiety: Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to reduce stress and anxiety.
- 2. Avoid stimulants: Reduce your intake of caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants that can increase heart rate.
- 3. Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help reduce stress, anxiety, and lower your risk of heart disease.
- 4. Get enough sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential for overall health, including heart health.