What are heart palpitations? How are they caused?
Do you ever have that uncomfortable sensation of your heart skipping a beat or beating too fast? This strange fluttering or thumping in your chest is generally known as heart palpitations. It can be frightening and many people experience it from time to time.
Although palpitations can sometimes be a warning sign of danger - heart disease, arrhythmia, or a panic attack - most heart palpitations are not serious.
The most harmless and common causes are stress, too much caffeine, alcohol or other stimulants, or even lack of sleep. Some drugs, including some cold medicines, and other conditions such as high blood pressure, can also produce palpitations. Reducing your stress levels may help alleviate palpitations.
Palpitations are more common in people 40 and above and are generally associated with high blood pressure, being overweight, diabetes, thyroid disease, and coronary heart disease. However, when palpitations occur in young people, they are most often caused by the lifestyle factors. Nervous tension is also a common cause.
Usually, palpitations that last only a few seconds and are not followed by any other symptoms are harmless. However, if you're worried, you should consult your doctor. If palpitations are accompanied by chest pain or if they persist, or if you experience light-headedness, fainting, or shortness of breath, see your doctor immediately. These types of symptoms can be signs of something more serious. It may be necessary to have some blood tests and an electrocardiogram. On occasion, additional testing is required, which may include an echocardiogram, the Holter monitor, a stress electrocardiogram, and catheter studies.
The best advice: if you experience heart palpitations that could be attributed to what has been described here, discontinue those activities. But most experts agree that if the problem persists, get to a doctor.