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What You Need to Know About Heart Palpitations

By Kate Gardner

Maybe you've felt a fluttering in your chest, the briefest sensation that your heart isn't beating as usual. Almost before you notice it, the feeling is gone. Or maybe it was more pronounced and you suddenly felt like your heart was beating fast and hard in your chest. Both of these situations could be something called heart palpitations. The Mayo Clinic walks us through what heart palpitations are, what causes them, and when you should see your healthcare provider. 

Palpitations

Heart palpitations can feel different to different people. People describe them as feeling like their heart skipped a beat, a fluttering or flip-flopping feeling in the chest, a pounding heartbeat, or as if their heart is beating too fast. You may only have one or two palpitations, or you may have more. Sometimes you may have heart palpitations, and not even notice them!

Causes

Heart palpitations can be caused by a number of different factors. Strong emotions, like panic and anxiety, can cause them. Exercise and stimulants (such as coffee, nicotine, and the cold medicine pseudoephedrine) can bring them on, as well as fevers and hormone changes. Less commonly, palpitations can be caused by heart arrhythmias, thyroid problems, or other heart problems. 

When to See the Doctor

Heart palpitations can feel scary, but most of them are benign (meaning they are not dangerous). Many people have occasional, brief palpitations that don't require evaluation. If you're having palpitations more frequently or are having other symptoms, you should seek medical care. These symptoms include: 

  • Fainting
  • Chest pain
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Severe dizziness

Tests

Your healthcare provider will listen to your heart and conduct tests to determine the cause of your palpitations. They may recommend the following tests: 

  •  Electrocardiogram - An electrocardiogram, also known as an EKG, uses wires attached to your chest with sticky pads to evaluate your heart's electrical system. EKGs can show arrhthymias.   
  • Heart monitoring - A heart monitor is worn to catch palpitations that aren't seen on a regular electrocardiogram. A Holter monitor is only worn for a few days while an event monitor can be worn for several weeks and is useful if your palpitations happen infrequently. 
  • Echocardiogram - An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart. This ultrasound can show doctors the physical structure of your heart and how it is working. 
  • Other tests - Your doctor may also run other tests to see if your thyroid is responsible for your symptoms.

It's important to remember that most heart palpitations aren't a problem. However, it's always a good idea to tell your healthcare provider what's going on. 

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Tampa, Fla.

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