If you’ve had heart palpitations before, you know that they’re overwhelming and upsetting. But familiarizing yourself with this experience makes it easier to deal with it when it happens. Let’s take a look at the most common heart palpitation causes and the best ways to treat them.
What Do Heart Palpitations Feel Like?
Here are some of the ways people describe heart palpitations:
- Feeling like your heart skipped a beat, or started beating irregularly.
- Rapid, fluttery heartbeats.
- A strong, pounding sensation in your chest.
- Becoming overly aware of your own heartbeat.
Sometimes this sensation can spread to your throat, neck, and chest.
You might be wondering if palpitations are the same thing as an arrhythmia. An arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat that comes from problems with the electrical impulses that control your cardiac movements. When you have an arrhythmia, you may experience palpitations, along with some other symptoms that include sweating and chest pain. But sometimes there are no symptoms, and it may go undetected for years.
Simply put, an arrhythmia is a medical condition that means your heart isn’t beating regularly. Palpitations are the sensation of an irregular heartbeat. While there’s a lot of overlap, the two terms aren’t equivalent.
What Should You Do When You Have Heart Palpitations?
In many cases, heart palpitations are harmless. You don’t usually need to seek medical attention just because you experienced them. However, they could be an indicator that something is wrong.
To be sure of what’s going on, you should pay attention to other symptoms. For example, chest pain might indicate you’re having a serious health problem. Changes in your pulse are worth taking note of as well.
It’s also crucial to observe the pattern of your palpitations. Do you experience them often, and are they connected to any of your regular activities? Do the palpitations happen suddenly or do they fade in and out?
Potential Causes and treatments
Here are a few of the most common heart palpitation causes, as well as the best ways to treat each one.
1. Heart Conditions
This isn’t the most common cause of palpitations, but it’s the one you’re likeliest to worry about. The truth is that heart attacks, heart valve problems, and heart muscle problems can all cause arrhythmias. As we said above, arrhythmias have a variety of symptoms. These can include palpitations, irregular breathing, chills, and pain around your breastbone.
Your doctors will use a variety of tests to determine your usual heart rate. You might have to wear a heart monitor for a full day, or even a few weeks. Once they’ve determined the exact nature of your cardiac issue, they may prescribe medications or lifestyle changes. Heart surgery is a possibility as well, but non-invasive treatments are more likely.
2. Smoking, Alcohol, and Coffee
Experts have linked smoking with heart palpitations. Smoking increases your heart rate for a variety of reasons, and it can also cause long-term cardiac issues. If you’re a heavy smoker, you might be having palpitations because of the lowered concentrations of oxygen in your blood. Coffee and caffeinated soda are frequent causes of palpitation as well.
Drinking can increase your risk of a condition called atrial fibrillation, which comes with episodes of arrhythmia. Associated symptoms include exhaustion and frequent dizziness.
If you want to quit an addictive habit that is causing you discomfort, it’s not a good idea to quit cold turkey. Instead, you should do it gradually and have a detailed plan in mind. Make some lifestyle changes and stay out of situations where you might be tempted to return to your habit. Community support and professional help are both excellent options.
3. Hormone Changes
Women going through menopause often experience heart palpitations. Palpitations may also be the result of taking hormone medication. In some cases, they come from hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
A simple blood test can be enough to tell your doctors whether there’s a hormone imbalance in your body. Since thyroid gland issues can have dangerous consequences, it’s important to get yourself tested as soon as possible. In the case of menopause, your doctor might be able to give you advice for easing the symptoms of your hormonal issues.
If you’re under a lot of stress, your body starts reacting to threats that aren’t present. Specifically, it releases hormones that affect your heart rate and cause some other changes in your body. A panic attack can feel similar to a heart attack, as both come with excessive sweating, chest pain, and breathing difficulties. It’s not always easy to tell what you are experiencing, and you should call 911 if you think it might be a heart attack.
Anxiety may be a response to a stressful event, or it can be the result of a stressful lifestyle. But in many cases, anxiety is a mental health issue. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most widespread type of mental illness in the US.
There are many different ways to treat anxiety, and you can do some of the treatments at home. You should consult your doctor about your situation, and they may suggest relaxation techniques, some form of therapy, or medications. All of these options can be useful even if your anxiety is a short-term condition caused by a particular life event.
While keeping to a daily exercise regime is healthy, it may have a negative effect on your heartbeat.
You should start with making sure you’re not dehydrated. Then go for less intense exercise and more breaks. Note that palpitations after exercise can be a danger sign, especially if you’re pregnant or diabetic. If it keeps happening after you’ve altered your exercise regime, talk to a doctor.
A Final Word
Many children experience heart palpitations and shrug the matter off. But as you get older, the experience may become a source of distress. You might feel anxious about what the palpitations might mean for your cardiac health. As your anxiety grows, you become more aware of the symptoms, and the irregular heartbeats get more pronounced because of your emotional state.
Learning about some of the most common heart palpitation causes is the first step toward managing this experience. If you can keep calm and methodical when you experience palpitations, they may become rarer or less intense. More importantly, this is the only way to spot whether your palpitations come from a serious medical problem.