We are generally not aware of our heartbeats, unless we stand still and pay attention. However, there are times when our heart makes its presence felt to us, by beating faster and harder.
The instances may be when you are about to see your examination results on the notice board, or discussing your appraisal with your boss, or even when you exercise. However, in these situations, it is normal for the heart to beat faster. It is a transient condition and the heartbeat comes back to its normal rhythm. But, if your heart beats hard and fast when you are at ease and not exercising, then you are experiencing something called as palpitations.
Palpitations are abnormal beatings of your heart. You can feel these palpitations as poundings or unpleasant sensations in your chest, throat, or neck.
The normal heartbeat is 60-100 times a minute. If your heart beats more than 100 times a minute, then it is called tachycardia. If your heartbeat is slow, then it is termed as bradycardia. Irregular heart beat or change in the rhythm of heartbeat is called arrhythmia.
There are many causes of palpitations, some are directly related to heart, and some are not. You may have heart palpitations if you are already suffering from arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, or if you have any problems with your heart valves.
Some causes may not be directly related to the heart. If you are anemic or are emotionally stressed, you may have palpitations.
The heartbeat may also become faster under the influence of stimulants such as caffeine or pseudoephedrine.
In people who smoke, palpitations can be due to nicotine.
The heartbeat may become faster in fever, or if you are exercising strenuously.
Medication use to treat thyroid problems, asthma or any heart disease also tend to cause palpitation.
Though most of the times the cause of the palpitations cannot be identified, sometimes palpitations could be a sign of serious underlying disease.
Here are a few symptoms of heart palpitations.
Your doctor will probe to find out the other symptoms you experience, medications you are taking, may ask you about your medical history and about your diet.
Your doctor may ask you to undergo blood test, urine test, electrocardiogram (records heart’s electrical activity), stress test, chest X-ray and echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) to rule out other causes of abnormal heartbeat.
Your doctor may also refer you to a heart specialist (Cardiologist) for further advanced testing and analysis. Palpitations are treated based on the underlying cause of it, medications, and use of electrical devices to bring the heartbeat to normal rhythm.
Heart palpitation treatment depends on the cause. Some palpitations are harmless whereas some need treatment. A few treatments mentioned below are offered to the person suffering from heart palpitations. They are:
It is better and easier to prevent palpitations rather than find causes and treat it. Keeping your heart healthy is the best way to prevent palpitations. Try to avoid the causes of stress and if possible reduce your exposure to stress.
You may practice yoga (Indian system of physical exercise), tai-chi (Chinese system of physical exercise) or other relaxation techniques. You may also consult your doctor and follow a regular exercise regimen.
Limit consumption of alcohol and coffee. Smoking is injurious to health, especially to heat health, so quit smoking, and reduce your chances of getting palpitations. Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol within limits.
To let your doctor know when you experience palpitations, keep track of your palpitations by recoding the date, time, duration, activity undertaken and information about the medications. Avoid any cough and cold medications, herbal supplements, stimulants or activities that may increase your palpitations.
Following a healthy lifestyle is the key to a palpitation-free life. A heart healthy diet and regular physical activity keeps the heart happy and beating at normal rhythm. If you already had episodes of palpitations, it is better to be careful about aggravation of symptoms. If you feel tightness and pain the chest, shortness of breath or fainting, you or your family members immediately call for emergency.