Heart palpitations are the feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart. You may sometimes feel that your heart skips a beat or there is an extra beat.
This is known medically as an ectopic beat. It’s very common and usually nothing to worry about.However, as a precaution, you should always get palpitation symptoms checked out with your GP.
Causes of heart palpitations
Stress, exercise, medication or, rarely, a medical condition can trigger them. Although heart palpitations can be a worry, they’re usually harmless, but there are a number of possible causes for heart palpitations.
1. Lifestyle triggers
Feeling nervous, anxious or excited are common lifestyle triggers and if this is the cause of your palpitations, it’s sensible to try to reduce your stress levels.
Try relaxation and deep breathing exercises and find out more about stress management.
Feelings of anxiety can often be helped by supplemental progesterone as that is the hormone that calms us down.
There are so many health hazards for smokers, but many do turn to it as they feel it helps relax them. This is because nicotine is a mood-altering drug and it seems to inhibit feelings of frustration, anger, and anxiety when it’s inhaled. However this is a short term gain against a long-term health risk so if you can try to kick the habit. There is plenty of help available and your doctor will certainly support you to give up.
3. Drinking large amounts of caffeine
If this is the cause of your palpitations, it’s sensible to try reducing your intake of caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee, cola or energy drinks. I now for me this was a definite trigger as when working in a high pressure environment I would unconsciously drink coffee to keep me alert. I didn’t realise I had a problem until I had an anxiety/panic attack where my heart felt as if it was going to burst out of my chest.
I was on the Underground and had to get off the train and wait for it to pass. After that I limited my intake to my early morning coffee and haven’t had another attack, but that was because I identified the trigger.
4. Drinking too much alcohol
Even in moderation, alcohol may be hard on your heart. The most common abnormal heart rhythm, Afib causes symptoms including lack of energy, dizziness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and chest pain.
An occasional drink is not a problem, but notice if your heart rate changes when drinking and Ii you need help now about an alcohol related issue or you just want to chat to someone about your drinking, please contact Drinkline on 0800 7 314 314 (7 days, 8.00am to 11.00pm).
5. Being overweight
People who are seriously overweight are more likely to develop a rapid and irregular heart rate, called atrial fibrillation, which can lead to stroke, heart failure and other complications, according to Penn State researchers.
Oestrogen dominance can cause weight gain, so check your hormone balance.
6. Panic attacks
If you experience palpitations regularly and you also have feelings of anxiety, stress and panic, you may be experiencing panic attacks.
Panic attacks can be very frightening and intense, but they are not dangerous. However, it may help if you discuss these with your doctor or related therapist.
Less commonly, palpitations can be a side effect of some types of medicine, such as asthma inhalers or tablets for a thyroid problem.
This may be particularly noticeable if you have just started taking the medication so speak to your GP or pharmacist if you think medication may be responsible but don’t stop taking a treatment without consulting your GP first.
8. Periods, pregnancy and the menopause
Sometimes the fluctuating hormone changes that happen during a woman’s period, during pregnancy or around the menopause can cause palpitations.
Some perimenopausal and menopausal women find their palpitations occur during or after a hot flush but these may only be temporary, and are often nothing to worry about.
9. Medical conditions
The following conditions can make the heart beat faster, stronger or more irregularly, so can be a cause of heart palpitations
- an overactive thyroid
- low blood sugar level
- anaemia (low red blood count)
- some types of low blood pressure
- dehydration (not enough fluid in the body)
- a heart problem
When to get immediate medical help
Sometimes palpitations may be a sign of a heart problem. It’s important to seek immediate medical assistance or call 999 if you are experience other symptoms such as dizziness, breathlessness or shortness of breath and chest pain.
How to help yourself
Lifestyle factors can cause heart palpitations and , less frequently, an underlying medical condition is responsible. Always seek your GP’s advice but there are a few things you can do to reduce your chance of getting them.
* If you are feeling hot, or having a flush try placing ice or a cold, damp towel on the face for a few seconds or a cool shower.
*Reduce stress as it can can have many ill effects on your health. It can induce palpitations or make them worse.
*Reduce or eliminate stimulant intake from caffeine, alcohol and sugar.
*Check your meds, as some hypertension medication, appetite suppressants and some mental health drugs may have palpitations as a side effect.
*Relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation, may help to reduce palpitations.
*Keep electrolytes balanced with and good potassium levels bananas, watermelon and avocado.
*Keep hydrated with water, not alcohol or carbonated drinks, and check your urine is light in colour., If dark, increase fluids.
*Exercise regularly as it can improve overall cardiovascular health and restore the heart’s natural rhythm. It can also help to reduce stress and anxiety. Cardiovascular exercise helps to strengthen the heart, which can prevent or reduce palpitations so walking is good, just check it doesn’t trigger a palpitation.
Heart palpitations are common, and they often last for a few seconds. These tips listed can help to stop palpitations and reduce their occurrence but always speak to a doctor if the sensation lasts for longer than this as it may indicate an underlying condition that requires treatment.
Check your hormone balance too as progesterone is helpful for the heart, so check whether this could also be behind your palpitations. Progesterone calms the system but if yo are oestrogen dominant then you may have too low levels of this important hormone.
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