That feeling of one’s heart fluttering, skipping a beat, or beating too fast or hard can be unsettling and frightening when it comes out of the blue. However, these unusual heartbeats typically go away as soon as they come and do not always imply a more harmful or severe issue. In most cases, randomly skipped heartbeats that occur from time to time are due to excessive stimulants from nicotine or coffee and stress, which are nothing to be anxious about. But if other symptoms accompany these palpitations, a doctor’s visit is in order.
An Overview of Heart Palpitations
Heart palpitations refer to when you feel your heartbeat go off-beat or the sensation of it beating harder or faster than you are used to. Many people describe palpitations as a pounding or fluttering sensation, while others claim it is as if their hearts skipped or took an additional beat. Heart palpitations can sometimes indicate arrhythmia, a condition wherein the heart rate is slower or quicker than usual, caused by the heart’s electrical system.
Similar to how an orchestra maestro directs many complex sounds into a harmonious symphony, these electrical signals synchronise the heart muscles’ contractions, resulting in the rhythmic beating of our heartbeat. This electrical system is tasked with hitting each note consistently for the heart to function efficiently and effectively. Moreover, it runs on the equivalent of train tracks. People with arrhythmia typically have additional electrical connections, which their electrical system uses and leads to the condition.
Signs to Keep a Lookout For
Short-lived heart palpitations without a raised heart rate or accompanying symptoms are a common occurrence that is not much of a concern. However, there are rare exceptions when heart palpitations warrant a visit to the doctor’s office, which include:
- Long-lasting palpitations
Regular heart palpitations should last for no longer than a few minutes. Therefore, cases wherein the feeling continues for an hour or longer, despite the lack of any other symptoms, should be checked out by a healthcare provider.
- High heart rate
When feeling palpitations, it is recommended to check your heart rate by using a heart monitoring device like those now commonly available in smartwatches or feeling your pulse manually. If it exceeds 110 BPM, it is best to consult a doctor.
- Age factors
Heart palpitations that suddenly appear in seniors must be examined by a medical professional. For people that have rarely experienced heart palpitations in their adult life but now frequently do in their late 60s and 70s, there is a chance that they have atrial fibrillation or an irregular heart rhythm in the chambers of the upper heart. Atrial fibrillation is among the common types of arrhythmia and can lead to health complications such as a stroke if left untreated.
- Other symptoms
Heart palpitations that come with other symptoms can indicate the presence of an arrhythmia. If these symptoms are severe, it is a sign of instability and should be tested immediately. It is advised not to ignore palpitations that are accompanied by:
- Discomfort or pain in the chest
When To Seek A Doctor
If preventative measures such as managing your stress and cutting back on caffeine are effective at managing short-lived palpitations, there is nothing to worry about. Mentioning the matter to your doctor during your next checkup will suffice. However, if the palpitations take too long to go away, do not stop on their own, or you are experiencing them at an elderly age, a visit to the hospital should be in order.
Painful heart palpitations or those that make you feel off count as an emergency that requires immediate medical attention. To determine the root cause of heart palpitations, healthcare providers will first review your medical history and most likely have you undergo an electrocardiogram or EKG. This non-invasive study observes the electrical conduction of your heart while it is at rest.
It is always a good idea to share your concerns or ask questions from your doctor whenever you are in doubt about your heart palpitations. While they are nothing to worry about in most cases, a medical professional can help identify the potential causes of these feelings and offer solutions to manage them.
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