Heart palpitations are a common experience where an individual feels that their heart is beating too hard, too fast, skipping a beat, or fluttering. Usually, palpitations are not serious, but they can sometimes be a symptom of a more significant health problem. This page offers a detailed overview of heart palpitations, including their definition, causes, and when to seek medical attention.
Definition of Heart Palpitations
Palpitations are the sensation of your heart beating in a way that is unusual for you, whether it’s faster, slower, or with an irregular rhythm. They can be felt in your chest, throat, or neck. Palpitations can be alarming, but they are often harmless and not a sign of a serious problem.
Causes of Heart Palpitations
The causes of heart palpitations can range from everyday lifestyle factors to underlying medical conditions. They include:
- Stress, anxiety, or panic attacks: Emotional stress can trigger palpitations.
- Exercise: Intense physical activity can increase heart rate.
- Caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol: These substances can stimulate the heart.
- Medication: Some cold and cough medications, asthma inhalers, and beta-blockers can cause palpitations.
- Pregnancy: Palpitations are common due to increased blood volume and hormonal changes.
- Menopause: Hormonal fluctuations can cause palpitations.
- Thyroid imbalance: Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can lead to palpitations.
- Arrhythmias: Irregular heart rhythms can cause a fluttering sensation.
- Heart disease: Coronary artery disease or heart failure can lead to palpitations.
- Cardiomyopathy: This disease of the heart muscle can cause palpitations.
Other Medical Conditions:
- Anemia: Low levels of red blood cells can lead to palpitations.
- Low blood sugar: Especially in people with diabetes.
- Dehydration: Can affect the balance of electrolytes and lead to palpitations.
When to Seek Medical Attention
While heart palpitations are often harmless, there are times when they could be a sign of a serious health issue. Seek immediate medical attention if palpitations are accompanied by:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Severe shortness of breath
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Fainting (syncope)
Heart palpitations can be a disconcerting experience, but they are usually not a cause for alarm. Understanding their potential causes can help individuals identify lifestyle changes that may reduce their occurrence. However, if palpitations are frequent, severe, or accompanied by other symptoms of a heart condition, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for an evaluation.