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Home arrow Medical Procedures arrow Cardiac arrow Heart Conditions and Problems arrow Heart Palpitations or Irregular Heartbeat
Heart Palpitations or Irregular Heartbeat

Heart Palpitations or Irregular Heartbeat

Heart palpitation (medically known as Ectopic heart beat) are heartbeat sensations that feel like your heart is pounding or racing. Other names to describe heart pounding are palpitations, heartbeat sensations and irregular heartbeat.

When you experience heart palpitations, you may simply have an abnormal awareness of the beating of the heart, whether it is too slow, too fast, irregular, or at its normal frequency. You may feel skipped or stopped beats. The heart's rhythm may be normal or abnormal. The difference between an abnormal awareness and a normal awareness is that the latter is almost always caused by a concentration on the beating of one's heart and the former interrupts other thoughts. Palpitations can be felt in your chest, throat, or neck.


Causes of palpitations

•  Over exertion
•  Anxiety, stress, fear
•  Fever
•  Alcohol
•  Caffeine
•  Nicotine (cigarette smoking)
•  Cocaine
•  Diet pills
•  Amphetamines and other drugs
•  Heart disease
•  Other diseases (such as hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid)
•  Hyperventilation
•  Medications such as thyroid pills, asthma drugs, beta blockers, or anti-arrhythmics
•  Low levels of oxygen in your blood
•  Mitral valve prolapse, a condition in which the valve that separates the left upper chamber (atrium) from the left lower chamber (ventricle) of the heart does not close properly


Risk Factors

You are at a higher risk of having an abnormal heart rhythm if you have the following conditions:
•  Known heart disease at the time the palpitations begin
•  Significant risk factors for heart disease
•  An abnormal heart valve
•  An electrolyte abnormality in your blood -- for example, a low potassium level



•  Quit smoking
•  Eat a well-balanced diet that is low in fat
•  Exercise regularly
•  Try stress management techniques such as yoga , tai chi, or meditation
•  Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol are under control


When to contact your healthcare provider?

1. Contact your doctor when you have palpitations alongside other symptoms, including sweating, faintness, chest pain or dizziness, as this may indicate irregular or poor heart function.

2. Palpitations may also be due to anxiety and panic attacks. You may have this disorder if you are on anti-depressants. In such cases, you should seek psychological assessment.

In most cases palpitations can be safely ignored as they are caused by anxiety, tobacco smoking and high caffeine intake. Although even if you do suffer from any one of these, don't guess and still get to your doctor. Delaying seeing your doctor will increase your worry, which will lead to more palpitations.



Diagnostic tests that may be performed on a patient suffering from palpitations include:
•  EKG (Electrocardiogram)
•  Ambulatory cardiac monitoring (for example, wearing a Holter monitor for 24 hours, or another type of monitor for two weeks or longer)
•  Echocardiogram
•  Electrophysiology study (EPS)
•  Coronary angiography


Further reading 

Also read about Cardiac Arrhythmia


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