It can be scary to notice unusual sensations in your chest. If your heart won’t stop pounding, or you feel an irregular heartbeat, does it mean that you are having a heart attack or heart failure?
While palpitations can be a sign of a heart condition, it is best to talk to a doctor for an accurate diagnosis. The truth is that heart palpitations can also be caused by a variety of other health conditions. In this article, you will learn about the cause of heart palpitations, and what should be done when you are experiencing palpitations.
What Are Heart Palpitations?
A heart palpitation is a feeling that happens in the chest, associated with the way the heart is beating.
The feeling of heart palpitations vary from person to person, but often make your heart feel like it is:
- Beating in irregular patterns
- Beating too quickly
- Beating too strongly
- Skipping heartbeats
- Flip-flopping in the chest
- Fluttering rapidly
- Skipping heartbeats
The most common way to describe a heart palpitation is the feeling you get after sprinting up a long flight of stairs. When you reach the top, you are breathing heavy, you can feel your heart pounding, and you might hear the beating in your ears. This sensation usually passes in a few seconds, but it might be a cause for concern if the heart palpations don’t go away on their own.
Heart palpitations can occur when you are active or when you are resting. They can be connected to a specific activity or trigger, or the palpitations might happen for no identified reason.
Most people only have palpitations every once in a while. But some patients experience palpitations throughout the day, resulting in discomfort that can feel as strong as a heart attack.
Should I Be Concerned about Heart Palpitations?
Most of the time, heart palpitations shouldn’t be a reason to feel alarmed. Palpitations are often caused by something other than a heart condition. Common causes of palpitations include:
- Strenuous exercise
- Thyroid problems
- Hormonal changes (such as menopause or pregnancy)
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- Low blood sugar
- Abnormal electrolyte levels
- Panic attack
- Pseudoephedrine (an ingredient often used in cold medications)
There is no way to determine the underlying cause without consulting with an experienced medical professional. In many cases, heart palpitations are normal and aren’t a cause of concern – unless they are linked with a heart problem.
How to Stop Heart Palpitations
Do you experience heart palpitations regularly? It’s smart to have a few specific strategies to stop the palpitations at the moment when you are experiencing an attack.
Try these tips to stop heart palpitations:
- Splash cold water on your face, which stimulates a nerve that manages your heart rate.
- Breathe deeply to help your body relax.
- Vigorously move to stop palpitations through exercise.
- Reduce anxiety in whatever way works best for your unique needs.
- Close your eyes, then use your hands to gently press on your eyeballs.
- Try the Valsalva maneuver: pinch your nostrils closed, then try to blow air through the nose with the nostrils sealed.
- Drink water if the palpitations are associated with dehydration.
- Restore electrolyte balance by eating foods high in calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sodium.
Long-Term Treatments for Palpitations
In most cases, heart palpitations will go away on their own. They usually aren’t harmful if the palpitations aren’t associated with a heart condition. The best treatment is to identify the underlying cause of heart palpitations to reduce the trigger. For example, if your palpitations are caused by anxiety, then treating the underlying anxiety will naturally eliminate the palpitations.
If your doctor doesn’t identify a heart-related cause for your palpitations, then specific lifestyle factors will be evaluated to manage your triggers.
Beyond heart-related causes, these factors may need to be evaluated to help manage your heart palpitation triggers:
- Stress and Anxiety: Reduce stress levels through activities such as yoga, relaxation exercises, guided imagery, biofeedback, tai chi, and aromatherapy.
- Substance Management: Cutting palpitation-inducing substances can be effective. You might need to avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, cold medications, herbal supplements, or illegal drugs.
- Smoking Cessation: The use of tobacco can play a role in heart palpitations, so it’s often recommended that you avoid cigarettes.
- Prescriptions: Sometimes, medications can be used for managing heart palpitations, such as calcium-channel blockers or beta-blockers.
The overall goal is to identify the underlying reason for the palpitations so that reason can be treated.
When Emergency Services are Needed for Heart Palpitations
If you are experiencing unusual heart palpitations, have a history of heart disease, or you are unsure why you are having these symptoms, then the best solution is to talk to a doctor for a diagnosis. A medical expert can help in identifying the underlying problem so the right treatment plan can be designed.
During the appointment, your doctor will complete a thorough medical exam and evaluate your medical history. Additionally, questions will be asked about your diet, medications, and lifestyle. It is important that you provide as much information as possible, including the specifics of how often, when, and what circumstances trigger your palpitations.
It is possible that emergency symptoms are required if the heart palpitations are accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Chest discomfort
The risk of complications is high when palpitations are caused by a heart condition, which is why emergency services are essential. For example, palpitations could be a sign that leads to stroke, heart failure, or heart attack.
iCare ER and Urgent Care is Here to Help
It doesn’t matter if you have a minor health concern or you need emergency services, our team is here to assist. We offer locations in Frisco and Fort Worth, with both urgent care and ER services in the same building.
Walk-ins are welcome, you can use the online sign-in form to reduce your wait time in the office. If it’s an emergency, then you should come to our ER immediately or call 911. Call us at iCare ER and Urgent Care if you have questions about available services: (214) 407-8668.