Have you ever noticed that your heart skips a beat, or "flip flops" from time to time? It’s kind of like a flutter within your chest that might last for just a second or go on so long you find yourself coughing and concerned. If you feel the occasional palpitation, such as after exercise or during a stressful event (like going onstage to speak) this can be normal. However if you are noticing skipped beats more often than not, definitely get in to see your healthcare provider. Assuming it’s not something truly cardiovascular, here are some other options to consider.
1) Low iron: It is a well-known symptom of low iron to have fatigue, shortness of breath and increased heart palpitations! Make certain your provider checks not only your complete blood count (CBC) for outright anemia but also your ferritin levels which are your iron storage. If either are low or borderline low you should be treated.
2) Thyroid problems: Both too much (hyperthyroid) and too little (hypothyroid) can cause heart palpitations. If you are already on thyroid medication make sure to have your levels checked so it can be adjusted appropriately.
3) Hormone shifts: Many women going through menopause notice an increase in heart palpitations with the shift in estrogen and progesterone. While testing for hormones can be difficult depending where you are in your cycle (or no cycle), balancing your levels might make a difference.
4) Anxiety: Long-term stress can really cause your sympathetic nervous system to rev up your heart rate and cause frequent palpitations. Those in a stressful marriage or job, going through a divorce or bankruptcy, or those who are just generally anxious should be aware of this and take measures to improve their stress response such as counseling, exercise, meditation, or whatever it takes to reduce their stress.
5) Medications/Foods: Ever have too much coffee or drink too much alcohol? Perhaps you've started your thyroid or attention deficient disorder medication and noticed a flutter. Some find it with spicy foods or their food allergies. Be aware of this as your triggers.
Again, heart palpitations could be due to something with your actual heart system and require a full work-up that often includes an EKG, and maybe a stress-test on the treadmill or echocardiogram to view the heart chambers and leaflets. Either way, talk with your healthcare provider today.
1) Management with Patients with Palpitations. Medscape.com. Web. 11, Aug. 2011.
2) The Patient's Experience of Heart Palpitations and the Cardiology Consultation: An Exploratory Study. Medscape.com. Web. 11, Aug. 2011.
Reviewed August 12, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith