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Palpitations: Something to Worry About?

Palpitations refer to a cardiovascular condition when your heart feels like it is beating too fast or hard, ‘fluttering’, or skipping a beat. If you’ve ever experienced palpitations, you’ll know that they can be somewhat frightening. But it should be remembered that quite often, they are not harmful at all.

In some cases, palpitations can be down to something as seemingly trivial as drinking too much coffee, while in other instances, they could be caused by anxiety. If you are pregnant, you might experience palpitations. Only in rare cases are palpitations found to be a symptom of a serious heart health condition. But even so, heart palpitations are a reason for you to seek medical attention.

What are the potential causes of palpitations?

In some cases, the cause of palpitations can be entirely unknown, but there is a range of non-heart related, and heart-related causes.

The non-heart related causes of palpitations can include; medical condition, from low blood pressure to thyroid disease, low blood sugar, dehydration and anemia; intense physical exercise; caffeine, alcohol or illegal drugs; stress and anxiety, including panic attacks; hormonal changes caused by menstruation or pregnancy; and a variety of medications, including decongestants, drugs prescribed to treat arrhythmia, diet pills, asthma inhalers, and drugs prescribed to treat underactive thyroids. Herbal and nutritional supplements have also been found to cause palpitations in some users.

Potential heart-related causes include arrhythmia – the irregular beating of the heart – and in rarer cases, heart failure, coronary artery disease, problems with the heart’s muscle or valve, or the early signs of a heart attack.

When you should see a specialist

You should seek the help of a medical professional immediately if palpitations are accompanied by symptoms such as fainting, dizziness, chest pain or shortness of breath. Your doctor will typically make initial checks and review your medical history in order to find the cause of the palpitations. The right treatment can then be determined.

If you have been experiencing palpitations, there might not be much cause for concern. However, it is always wise to consult a medical professional who can get to the bottom of the issue.