Your body is like a tiny orchestra with a hundred musicians playing in perfect harmony. It’s a beautiful performance, but all it takes is one flat violinist or offbeat percussionist to ruin the music. Have you noticed that your heart is beating out of rhythm lately? Does it feel like your heart is racing, pounding hard or fluttering once in a while? You could be experiencing heart palpitations or an abnormal heart rhythm.
We spoke with Shane Rowan, MD, a cardiologist at CardioVascular Institute of North Colorado Cardiology Clinic, for his advice regarding heart palpitations.
Am I in danger?
In love and life, we take our heart very seriously. If you’ve felt heart palpitations lately, you might be nervous that something bigger is coming. Dr. Rowan explained, “Palpitations typically point to two common causes – an increased awareness of a normal heartbeat and arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat).” Either cause could be harmless, but you won’t know until you meet with a physician. Some heart rhythm problems, like atrial fibrillation and tachycardia, could spell danger and should be treated.
What could be causing my palpitations?
Heart arrhythmias could be related to heart disease, heart tissue damage and other electrical issues in your body. On the other hand, heart palpitations are often linked to a wider range of causes, such as:
- Strenuous exercise
- Caffeine and other stimulants
- Pregnancy, menstruation, menopause and other abrupt hormonal changes
- Thyroid imbalance (overactive thyroid)
- Heavy alcohol intake
- Sleep disorders like sleep apnea
- Stimulant medications
- Related heart conditions such as arrhythmia or previous heart damage
Am I feeling palpitations or arrhythmia?
The two can feel very similar. If from time to time you feel your heart skip a beat or two, like during a strenuous workout, after you’ve had too much caffeine or during strong emotions, you can likely chalk it up to palpitations. To help reduce their frequency or prevent them completely, consider one or more of the following: lower your intake of caffeine (drink one less cup of coffee in the morning), cut back on your evening cocktails, make sure to stay hydrated, monitor the intensity of your workouts, or find time for some relaxation and meditation into your hectic day.
When to seek care
If you are having palpitations frequently or you’re finding that the they last a long time, you should speak with a physician or seek medical attention. They will run a few tests to better understand your heart’s health, evaluate risk factors for heart disease and get ahead of any conditions before they worsen.
If you experience palpitations with other heart symptoms, such as chest pain, unusual sweating, shortness of breath or tightness in your chest, loss of consciousness or dizziness, don’t delay. Call 911 or go to an emergency room near you to be evaluated.
Want to learn more about your heart health? Take our free heart health risk assessment to learn more about your risk for heart disease and ways to reduce that risk.
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