I simply love old classic movies. One of the things that I love most are the scenes where the woman swoons with love - heart racing and “fluttering” as the handsome young (and of course, rich) hero sweeps her off her feet and carries her off into the sunset to live happily ever after. Ahhh… If only all heart “flutters” could be so romantic and enjoyable and have such a happy ending!
Heart palpitations are one heart condition that generally has a happy ending. Many people experience heart “flutters” or heart palpitations on a regular basis. Heart palpitations are characterized by a feeling that your heart is “fluttering.” It’s also been described as simply very rapid heartbeats. Others indicate that it may feel like your heart is skipping a beat or that your heart is working harder than normal.
Because your heart is simply beating faster (or stronger) than normal, heart palpitations are usually not serious. In rare instances, they may be caused by an underlying condition such as an arrhythmia.
What causes heart palpitations? Believe it or not, the love scene from the movies described above may be truer than we realize. Strong emotions or stress may trigger heart palpitations. Persons with a high stress level may be more at risk for developing heart palpitations as are persons for whom panic or anxiety attacks are the norm. Exercise or certain medications that contain stimulants have also been known to cause heart palpitations. Some medical conditions (pregnancy, hyperthyroidism, arrhythmia, heart defects, prior heart attack, anemia, dehydration) may also put you at greater risk. Caffeine, alcohol, illegal drugs and even energy drinks may be a trigger for heart palpitations.
Unless it’s caused by an underlying heart condition, heart palpitations are generally easy to treat. The solution may seem overly simple but to “cure” heart palpitations, identify the underlying cause that seems to trigger the heart palpitations and then avoid the activities or substance that triggers the episode. You also need to treat any underlying conditions which may be causing the heart palpitations.
Since the condition isn’t serious, you may not need ongoing medical care. Should you start having heart palpitations, you should be examined by a doctor to ensure that there is no underlying heart problem. However, if you experience any of the following while having heart palpitations, you should seek medical attention immediately: fainting, trouble breathing or shortness of breath, dizziness, or any type of chest pain or other uncomfortable feeling in the chest.
The next time your heart goes a-fluttering, and there’s no sunset or good-looking cowboy standing nearby to carry you off, you just might be having heart palpitations.
Until next time, here’s wishing you a healthy heart.
(Disclaimer: I am not a physician and nothing in this article should be construed as giving medical advice. As with any medical decision, please consult your physician.)
Note: For more information on heart health related issues, please visit other “A Woman’s Heart” articles by this author.
Heart Palpitations, The Mayo Clinic, http://mayoclinic.com/health/heart-palpitations/DS01139
What Are Palpitations?, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, Dec 2007, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/hpl/hpl_what.html