Like breathing, our heartbeat is something we don’t usually notice unless something is wrong. It is an automatic function that doesn’t require our active thought or attention. Nevertheless, it can be a worrying sensation when the heart is known to skip, flutter, pound, or seem anything other than regular.
These symptoms are known as heart palpitations. Whilst they appear alarming, they are often harmless and not necessarily a sign of more severe conditions. Most people experience the occasional ectopic beat, otherwise known as an extra or missed beat. This is usually nothing to worry about.
However, when you experience heart palpitations frequently, it might be time for a cardiologist to check its common triggers to see if any underlying conditions could be the cause.
Causes of Heart Palpitations
Heart palpitations can be caused by various factors:
These are triggers due to lifestyle choices you might make every day. It may include not getting enough sleep, strenuous exercise, or drinking too much caffeine.
Smoking, illegal drugs and frequent alcohol consumption are also likely triggers. However, even eating spicy food regularly can cause heart palpitations. If any of these lifestyle triggers are the root cause, the palpitations should go away on their own once the activity ceases and avoiding them can stop heart palpitations from coming back.
Emotional or psychological triggers
Mental health can have a direct impact on physical symptoms. For example, heart palpitations might be caused by excitement or nervousness, stress or anxiety. They can be the symptom of a panic attack. You can reduce the frequency of heart palpitations caused by emotional triggers by learning how to deal with your anxiety and completing calming breathing exercises.
Certain medication can trigger heart palpitations. For example:
- Antifungal medicines
- Asthma inhalers
- High blood pressure medicines
Don’t stop taking any prescribed medications without getting advice from your Doctor. Speak to your GP if you’re worried your medicine might be causing heart palpitations.
Heart palpitations can also come about due to changes in your hormone levels. Mostly relevant for women, the causes include periods, pregnancy and menopause. Heart palpitations should be temporary and nothing to worry about in all these cases.
Heart conditions and heart rhythm problems
Heart palpitations may be caused by a problem with your heart itself. It’s be necessary to see a cardiologist for a diagnosis in this case.
Heart rhythm issues (arrhythmia) include:
- Atrial fibrillation – the heart beats faster than usual and irregularly
- Supraventricular tachycardia – abnormally fast heart rate
- Atrial flutter – a fast and irregular heartbeat
- Ventricular tachycardia – the regular heartbeat is typically quick, often associated with blackouts and dizziness
Heart conditions that can be associated with heart palpitations include:
- Problems with the heart valves
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – the enlargement and thickening of the heart muscle and walls of the heart
- Heart failure – the heart is not able to properly pump blood around the body
- Congenital heart disease – a birth defect whereby the normal working of the heart is affected
When should I see a Doctor about heart palpitations?
If your heart palpitations pass quickly and happen only occasionally, there is probably no cause for concern. So you don’t need to see your GP. However, see a doctor if your palpitations last a long time, get worse, or don’t improve. A family history of heart problems may also be a reason to see a cardiologist for advice.
You can see one of Venturi Cardiology’s experts if you feel concerned about your heart palpitations. So don’t wait – make an appointment today and put your mind at ease.