Heart Palpitations Can Indicate More Serious Heart Issues.
Heart palpitations, though usually harmless, can be a sign of a serious heart condition. If you experience these palpitations, it’s best to be checked out by a doctor.
Causes Of Heart Palpitations
Heart palpitations can be caused by a variety of factors, and will typically go away on their own. They can be caused due to stress and anxiety, or overconsumption of caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol. They can also occur during pregnancy. A common reason for heart palpitations is experiencing a panic attack, as this will cause the body to work against itself due to high anxiety.
Vigorous physical activity is also a contributing factor. There are certain medical conditions unrelated to heart disease that can also trigger heart palpitations, such as thyroid disease, low blood sugar, anemia, low blood pressure, fever, and dehydration. Some medications, such as diet pills, decongestants, and asthma inhalers can also be a cause.
If heart palpitations are an indicator of a more serious heart problem, they can be due to previous heart attacks (also known as myocardial infarctions), coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, heart valve problems, or heart muscle problems. It’s important to see your doctor when experiencing heart palpitations to determine the cause and see if any treatment is required.
Risk Factors For Heart Palpitations
There are several health conditions, along with your lifestyle, age, and family history that can increase your risk for heart palpitations. There are multiple types of heart disease which can increase your risk of heart palpitations. Almost half of all Americans have at least one of the three main risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.
Although some risk factors cannot be controlled, it’s important to lower your risk by monitoring the factors you can control, such as smoking, physical activity, poor diet, and overconsumption of alcohol. Health conditions that can also be monitored include stress, anxiety disorder, and hyperthyroidism. It’s also best to avoid medicines that contain stimulants.
Symptoms Of Heart Palpitations
Heart palpitations can present as the heart beating too fast, pounding, or skipping beats. It may be a sign of a more serious issue if these symptoms occur along with chest pain, fainting, shortness of breath, or intense dizziness. Palpitations caused by a heart condition can lead to cardiac arrest, stroke, or even heart failure. Call 911 immediately if you experience multiple symptoms.
Palpitations can be caused by heartbeat problems, known as arrythmias, which can cause the heart to stop beating effectively and is potentially life-threatening. If palpitations lead to atrial fibrillation, this can cause blood clots which can limit the amount of blood to the heart and brain, causing a stroke. Palpitations can reduce the heart’s pumping ability, which if it goes on too long, can turn into heart failure.
How To Test Palpitation Causes
There are multiple tests available that your doctor may conduct to determine the cause of your heart palpitations.
An electocardiogram (EKG) may be performed to determine the issue. During a resting EKG, you’ll lie flat while a computer records your electrical impulses as they move through your heart, and this will create a picture of the activity. A stress test can also be conducted, where the same test is administered to check your heart rate while you exercise.
A holter monitor is a portable EKG that monitors the electrical activity of your heart 24/7 over the course of 1 to 2 days. This test may be suggested if your doctor suspects that you have an irregular heart rhythm, heart palpitations, or low blood flow to the heart. During this test, you can go about your daily routine except for showering. You’ll record your activities and any symptoms you noticed during this time.
An event monitor is a less intensive test that is used for occasional symptoms. This device has a button you can press whenever you notice symptoms, which will record your heart’s electrical activity for a few minutes. Because of the low frequency involved with this test, you may need to wear the device for weeks or even months.
A chest X-ray may also be recommended, as this will check for changes in your lungs that may be due to other heart problems. If your doctor finds fluid in your lungs, it may be a sign of heart failure.
An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of your heart that may be conducted, as this shows detailed information about your heart’s structure and function.
Treatment For Heart Palpitations
If your heart palpitations go away of their own accord, they are considered harmless and will not require any treatment. If your doctor cannot find a cause, the first step is to avoid things that may trigger the palpitations. This can include easing anxiety and stress, lifestyle changes such as a healthier diet or cutting out substances such as alcohol, caffeine or nicotine, and avoiding certain medications.
If these changes don’t relieve the problem, your doctor may prescribe you medications such as beta-blockers or calcium-channel blockers. However, if your doctor does find a cause of your heart palpitations, they will focus on treating that cause to alleviate the symptoms. This may include surgery, other medications, or cardiac rehabilitation.
How CVG Can Help
CVG offers electrocardiograms and other services that can diagnose several heart conditions that may be causing your heart palpitations. If any of these tests determine a problem, we offer treatment solutions such as atrial fibrillation testing and catheter ablation. Learn more about our services here, or schedule an appointment to talk to our doctors.