Palpitations – Causes and Management

What Are Palpitations?

Feeling or perceiving your heartbeats is referred to as palpitations. Normally heartbeat is not felt.

They may be felt when they are very rapid, or very loud (stronger than normal) or when they are irregular in their rhythm.

Strong beats feel like a pounding sensation in your chest area.

Symptoms of Palpitations

  • Pounding feel in your chest wall
  • Beating too fast
  • Irregular pulse
  • Uneasiness
  • Dizziness

There may be accompanying symptoms, which clue towards the root cause of having palpitations. They include-

Discomfort or pain in the chest, shortness of breath, gastric upsets, vertigo or feeling severely dizzy emotional instability etc.

Depending upon the root cause of getting palpitations, you may have some accompanying symptoms too.

Causes of Palpitations

Palpitation is a general symptom, and may occur in many common medical conditions. A careful physical examination, taking into account other symptoms would reveal the root cause of getting palpitations.

Though the symptom is of the heart, the cause may belong to the heart or may be from outside this organ.

Anxiety Palpitations

Anxiety, intense happiness or grief. Emotional stress of any type may give you palpitations. Such palpitations are usually transient, and subside as the trigger emotions get better. However, there may be some cases where the triggers are chronic and palpitations persist for long durations.

Such long standing cases need to be tackled by medicines.

Exercise

Vigorous amount of exercises may give you fast heart beats. This is a common experience after running or exercising in the gym for longer time periods.Resting for a while may stabilize heart rhythms.

Hypermetabolic States

Medical states where rate of metabolism is fast. This may include states of fever, hyperthyroidism, or when taking some hormonal pills for muscle building.

Stimulants

Too much intake of stimulants, like tea, tobacco, coffee etc.

Common cough medications have stimulants as their ingredients. This may increase the rate of heart beats temporarily.

This class of medication includes medicines used in asthma.

Anemia

Conditions like anemia may give faster heart beats. This is because low iron levels lead to poor oxygen carrying capacity of blood. So, more blood needs to be pumped to meet the body needs. Therefore, the heart beats faster.

Causes Related to the Heart

Another reason for getting palpitations is having some heart trouble. A diseased heart or the one progressing towards failure may start producing irregular beats. This is called arrhythmia. It may present as irregular or abnormal heart rhythms. Beats may be too fast but regular or absolutely irregular.

Hypertension

Hypertension is another cause of palpitations. This happens because heart has to push stronger to pump out the blood. So the beats are louder. These louder heart beats may be perceived by the person.

Palpitations After Eating

Commonly, people complain about hearing their heart beats after eating food. This may happen in the following conditions-

After over consumption of food or having adequate food after a long time, the stomach requires more blood to digest it. So, the heart beats faster to meet this increased demand.

If you take more of stimulants, like tea or coffee, in your meals, they may stimulate the heart to beat faster and give palpitations.

Palpitations When Nearing Menopause

Menopause is a state where the female hormones are fluctuating rapidly. These hormonal fluctuation cause the heart to beats faster. Women commonly complain of pounding heart, particularly when they lie down in bed.

Accompanying this symptom are hot flushes and sweating.

Treating Palpitations

Do not ignore your palpitations. Get evaluated by a doctor to go to the root cause  of having palpitations.

Most cases do not require medical treatment. Cutting down on stimulants from food or managing anxiety due to stress may let this symptom subside with time.

In other cases, an ECG needs to be done to rule out any cardiac (heart related) cause. The heart condition may then be accordingly treated.