Heart Palpitations

Palpitations occur when you sense an awareness of your own heartbeat. For some, this feels like racing beats, skipped beats, irregular beats, or stopped beats. The feeling may last for seconds, minutes, or even hours. You may feel palpitations in your chest, neck, or throat. For most people, an awareness of your own heartbeat can be an alarming experience. Luckily, the majority of palpitations are not caused by a serious problem and they can even occur during a perfectly normal heart rhythm.

Numerous stressors can lead to palpitations including anxiety, stress, caffeine, smoking, alcohol, medications, or narcotic drugs. Sometimes palpitations are a sign of underlying medical condition such as a thyroid disorder, anemia, and heart disease.

Palpitations associated with chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or fainting need to be addressed quickly. If this should occur, you should call 911 immediately. In addition, those who have known heart disease, arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythm), or a valve problem, should seek immediate medical care even if you are feeling okay during the palpitations.

A physician will take a detailed history, and you will undergo a series of tests including an electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram, and possibly an electrophysiology study (EPS), or a coronary angiography. These tests are used to rule out more serious causes of the palpitations. If serious causes are ruled out, there are numerous measures patients can take at home to reduce palpitations such as: limiting caffeine consumption, smoking cessation, minimizing stress and anxiety, and exercising regularly.

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