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Heart Palpitations

Assessment of Heart Palpitations

Treatment of Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations are a feeling that your heart is beating too hard or too fast, skipping a beat, or fluttering You may notice heart palpitations in your chest, throat, or neck.

Heart palpitations can be bothersome or frightening. They usually aren't serious or harmful, though, and often go away on their own. Most of the time, they're related to stress and anxiety or to consumption of stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol. Palpitations also often occur during pregnancy.

In rare cases, palpitations can be a sign of a more serious heart condition. Therefore, if you have heart palpitations, make arrangements to see your doctor. And seek immediate medical attention if along with palpitations, you experience shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, or fainting.

After taking your medical history and conducting a physical exam, your doctor may order tests that can either confirm or rule out an underlying cause. If an underlying cause is found, the right treatment can reduce or eliminate palpitations. If your palpitations are not related to an underlying cause, lifestyle

Many things can cause heart palpitations. In the vast majority of cases, the cause is either related to your

heart or is unknown. Non-heart-related causes of palpitations include:

Strong emotions such as anxiety, fear, or stress; palpitations often occur during panic attacks . panic attacks.

Vigorous physical activity physical activity

Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, or illegal street drugs such as cocai ne and am phetami nes , alcohol, or illegal street drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines

Medical conditions , inclu ding thyroid disease, a low blood sugar level, anemia , low blood ons, including thyroid disease, a low blood sugar level, anemia, low blood pressure, fever and dehydration

Hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, or the perimenopausal period; sometimes, palpitations during pregnancy are signs of anemia. mia.

Medications, including diet pills , decongestants , asthma inhalers , and some drugs used to prevent arrhythmias diet pills, decongestants, asthma inhalers, and some drugs used to prevent arrhythmias (a serious heart rhythm problem) or treat an underactive thyroid

Certain herbal and nutritional supplements supplements

Abnormal electrolyte levelsactive thyroid Certain herbal and nutritional supplements Some people expe rience palpitations a fter eating heavy

Some people experience palpitations after eating heavy meals that are rich in carbohydrates, sugar, or fat. Sometimes, eating foods with high levels of monosodium glutamate (MSG), nitrates, or sodium can bring them on. If you have heart palpitations after eating certain foods, the problem could be food sensitivity. Keeping a food diary can help you identify which foods to avoid.

Palpitations can also be related to underlying heart disease. When they are, palpitations are more likely to represent arrhythmia. Heart conditions associated with palpitations include:

Coronary artery diseasewith pal pitation s inc lude : Prio r heart attac k Other heart problems such

Other heart problems such as congestive heart failure , heart valve problems, or heart muscle problems congestive heart failure, heart valve problems, or heart muscle problems

Assessment of Heart Palpitations

Your doctor will conduct a physical examination, take your medical history, and ask about your current medications, diet, and lifestyle. The doctor also will ask when, how often, and under what circumstances palpitations occur.

Sometimes, a blood test can reveal the presence of anemia, electrolyte problems, or thyroid abnormalities and help identify the cause of palpitations. Other useful tes include:

Electrocardiogram (ECG ). An ECG can be d one either wh ile you are at rest ECG). An ECG can be done either while you are at rest or while you are exercising. The latter is called a stress ECG. An ECG records your heart's electrical signals and can detect abnormalities in the heart's rhythm.

Holter monit or i ng. A Holter monitor is worn on the chest. It continuously records itoring. A Holter monitor is worn on the chest. It continuously records your heart's electrica signals for 24 to 48 hours. It can detect rhythm abnormalities that weren't identified during a regular ECG test.

Event recording. An event recorder is worn on the chest. You use a handheld device to record the heart electrical signals when symptoms occur. ymptoms occur.

Chest X-ray.to record the heart electrical signals when s ymptoms occur. Echocardiogram. This i s an ultrasound

Echocardiogram. This i s an ultrasound examination of the heart. It provides detailed information about Echocardiogram. This is an ultrasound examination of the heart. It provides detailed information about the heart's structure and function.

If necessary, your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist for additional tests or treatment.

Treatment of Heart Palpitations

Treatment of heart palpitations depends on their cause. In most cases, palpitations are found to be

harmless and often go away on their own. In those cases, no treatment is needed.

If palpitations are not due to an underlying condition, your doctor may advise you to avoid the things that trigger them. Strategies may include:

Reducing anxiety and str ess. Common stress-reducing therapies include relaxation exercises, yoga , tai chi Reducing anxiety and stress. Common stress-reducing therapies include relaxation exercises, yoga, tai chi, biofeedback, guided imagery, and aromatherapy.

Avoiding certain foods, beverages, and s ubstances. This may include alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and illegal Avoiding certain foods, beverages, and substances. This may include alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and illegal drugs.

Avoiding medications that act as stimulants. These include cough and cold medicines, and certain herba and nutritional supplements. cough and cold medicines, and certain herba and nutritional supplements.

If lifestyle changes fail to reduce or eliminate palpitations, your doctor may prescribe certain medications.

In some cases, beta-blockers or calcium-channel blockers are used.

If your doctor finds that your palpitations are related to an underlying condition, such as anemia, the focus will be on treating that condition. If the palpitations are caused by a medication, your doctor will try to find

WebMD Medical Reference SOURCES:

FamilyDoctor.org: "Palpitations." National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: "What Are Palpitations?" "What Causes Palpitations?" "How Are Palpitations Treated?" Pregnancyandchildcare.org: "Heart Palpitations During Pregnancy." WomensHeart.org: "Cardiac Arrhythmia Management: Why Women are Different from Men." Heart-palpitations.net: "Heart Pounding After Eating."

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on July 16, 2013 © 2013 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

another medication you can use. If the palpitations represent an arrhythmia, medications or procedures

may be required. You may also be referred to a heart rhythm specialist known as an electrophysiologist.