Tina DonvitoUpdated: June 06, 2022
Normally, heart palpitations are not a cause for concern, but in the presence of these other symptoms and scenarios, they indicate serious problems.
What are heart palpitations?
That weird feeling in the middle of your chest can be alarming, but often it's just a glitch in your heart rate. A series of electrical impulses keeps your heart pumping; when one of the impulses is out of sync, you will feelpalpitationson the chest. Most of the time it's just them.Can Ibe a sign of something dangerous. There are several types of heart rhythm disorders, says Denice Hodgson-Zingman, MD, a cardiologist and associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Iowa Health Care. “Some of them cause the heart to beat irregularly, and this can feel like a 'flip flop' sensation,” she says.
symptoms to watch out for
If these electrical impulses are fired in the wrong order, you may experience a feeling of fullness in your neck and heartbeat, says Dr. Hodgson-Zingman. “Other rhythm disturbances consist of intermittent single extra beats or series of beats. Because these extra beats are too fast to allow the heart to pump blood efficiently, it can feel like your heart is failing. According to Joe Lau, MD, PhD, a Northwell Health cardiologist and American Heart Association expert, palpitations can also feel like a fluttering or racing sensation. is just one of11 Silent Signs of Heart Problems You Shouldn't Ignore.
"Papitations are a symptom, so there's no way to generally define what they feel like because, like all symptoms, what they feel like varies from patient to patient," says Emily Zeitler, M.D., electrophysiologist (or heart rhythm doctor). at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and a former member of the Electrophysiology Board of the American College of Cardiology. She says the palpitations require a diagnostic evaluation by her doctor.
Sign: Often has palpitations
"Depending on the exact causes, some patients may have infrequent symptoms, while others may have several continuous episodes a day, sometimes each episode lasting several minutes at a time," says Dr. Lau. Chances are, if your palpitations occur infrequently, you don't need to rush to the doctor.less serious causesfor palpitations may includestress, anxiety, caffeine, alcohol, illness or pregnancy, he says. check45 Things Cardiologists Do to Protect Their Own Hearts.
Sign: You have chest pain
Go straight to the emergency room (or call an ambulance) if you experience chest pain with palpitations, warns Dr. Zeitler. This is a classic sign that your heart is in serious trouble. don't miss the25 Heart Health Secrets Cardiologists Want You To Know.
Sign: You have trouble catching your breath
In fact, you probably shouldn't even wait for a doctor's appointment if you're experiencing this, as you could be having a cardiac event. When she does experience palpitations, "if she feels like she might pass out or actually pass out, she probably needs to be seen in an urgent care or ER right away," she says. Are here9 Things to Know About Heart Attacks Before You Have One.
Sign: You fainted
While most people know there's something wrong with fainting, if unconsciousness is preceded or followed by palpitations, you'll have even more reason to seek immediate medical attention, warns Dr. Zeitler. This could indicate some type of cardiac event, she says. Lau says that dizziness and swelling of the legs with palpitations can also indicate serious heart problems.
Sign: You have symptoms of stroke
"Any symptom similar to a stroke, such as asymmetric weakness, facial drooping, confusion, difficulty finding words, or visual changes, would be worrisome," says Dr. Hodgson-Zingman. These are the7 Signs of a Stroke Most People Ignore.
Sign: you can't make it through the day
Even if you don't have very alarming symptoms, if you don't feel well or have to stay in bed because of the strange sensations in your chest, you might benefit from treatment, says Dr. Zeitler. While the cause itself may be benign, it must be treated for it to work. “Atrial fibrillation [AFib], a very common cause of palpitations, comes from the upper chamber of the heart, the atrium, causing the lower chamber of the heart to contract irregularly; the heart rhythm is chaotic,” says Dr. Zeitler. "You don't have to treat AFib, but doctors often do it because it makes people feel really bad, and we can make people feel better with drugs or procedures like ablation." To discoverwhat it means when your heart skips a beat and 9 things that cause it.
Sign: You have had palpitations for a long time
Another reason why palpitations can be dangerous is that they can weaken the heart muscle. “Heart rhythm abnormalities, if left untreated and persist for weeks or months, can lead to weakening of the heart muscle, called cardiomyopathy,” says Dr. Hodgson-Zingman. "Fortunately, this form of cardiomyopathy is often fully reversible once the heart rhythm disturbance is corrected." Furthermore, even less dangerous conditions like AFib can havelong term consequences🇧🇷 “This rhythm is not fatal, but it is associated with a much higher risk of stroke and can cause cardiomyopathy if not recognized and treated,” she says. discover the12 advances in heart health that could save your life.
Sign: Your heart begins to beat too fast
Usually, you won't even notice your heart beating, but if you do and it's racing, it could mean your blood pressure is dropping. “When blood pressure is low, the heart compensates by beating faster and harder, and this can feel like a pounding or pounding heart,” says Dr. Hodgson-Zingman. If it is temporary, it may be the result of a fright or strong emotions. However, see your primary care doctor if this continues to happen. read about9 reasons why your heart is racing - this is completely normal.
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Sign: You already have heart problems
If you already have a heart condition, any rhythm problems could be more serious. "A person with a weakened heart or cardiomyopathy may also be predisposed to having extra ventricular beats [from the lower chambers of the heart]," explains Dr. Lau. “When these heartbeats become frequent and rapid, they are called ventricular tachycardia, and in a weakened heart, they can lead to cardiac arrest.
Sign: You had a heart attack
Heart muscle damaged by a heart attack will scar, and this can also predispose you to further ventricular tachycardia contractions, he says. Zeitler's doctor says that these patients should be treated immediately. “I would be more aggressive in making a diagnosis and treating it with medications, procedures, or an implantable defibrillator,” she says. Dr. Hodgson-Zingman says that patients with heart disease should be regularly evaluated and monitored for rhythm abnormalities. These are the12 things to do after a heart attack scare.
Sign: You have other health problems
In addition to past heart conditions, other health conditions can make palpitations more dangerous, and while common heart rhythm problems like atrial fibrillation aren't usually serious, in some people they can be. “If the patient has other risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and vascular problems, the risk of stroke may be high because atrial fibrillation can cause blood clots to form inside the heart that can travel to the brain and cause a stroke. stroke. says Dr. Lau. If you have other health conditions, tell your doctor if you experience palpitations.
Foto de Andy Dean/Shutterstock
Sign: You are getting old
Like many conditions, palpitations can be more common and severe in older people. "Another common problem that occurs with age is wear and tear on the heart's normal electrical system," says Dr. Hodgson-Zingman. “This can cause pauses or irregularities in your heart rhythm and could be a sign that you need a pacemaker.” Also, some types of heart rhythm disorders are more common with age. "Atrial fibrillation occurs in about 20% of people over the age of 80 and is becoming more common as we age," says Dr. Zeitler. In accordance withCenters for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 percent of people over the age of 65 have it.
Sign: Has a family history of sudden death
Regardless of your age, if you have a family history of sudden death before age 50, or a family member with cardiomyopathy, you should pay close attention to heart palpitations, says Dr. Hodgson-Zingman. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and your family history. Are here10 Ways Your Heart Changes After 50.
Sign: Another condition is causing the problem
Your palpitations may not be directly related to your heart. With anemia, "the heart has to work harder to pump blood and increase cardiac output so the body's tissues can get enough blood, and therefore oxygen," Dr. Lau says. Or with an overactive thyroid, for example: "Thyroid hormone can overstimulate the heart and make it beat faster," he says. A blood test can help identify these problems when you see your doctor about your palpitations. discover the14 Things You Think Cause Heart Disease But Don't.
Sign: Your fitness tracker detects a problem
Use technology to your advantage: Your doctor may even praise your Apple Watch for detecting an irregular heart rhythm. “Some of these commercially available tools are really good and have been scientifically validated to be accurate in detecting heart rhythm disturbances,” says Dr. Zeitler. "If someone comes to me with palpitations and an iWatch tracking that suggests a heart rhythm disorder, they'll likely give me a diagnostic evaluation."
Sign: You feel that something is not right
Dr. Zeitler advises following your intuition: If you feel your heart beating strangely, you better get it checked out. “It's one of those situations where you have to listen to your body,” she says. “If you feel like you are dying or might die, or pass out, or have an accident because you are passing out, those are reasons to seek care in an emergency room. If not, you can usually wait to see your primary care doctor, which would be a very good first step. Your primary care physician can decide when the time is right to refer you to a cardiologist or heart rhythm specialist.” You'll want to know about these30 Ways to Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke.
Original message: March 1, 2019
Tina Donvito is a regular contributor to the Culture and Travel sections of RD.com. She also writes about health and wellness, parenting, and pregnancy. Formerly editor-in-chief of Twist magazine, Donvito has also written for Parade Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Parents Magazine online, among others. Here, the work was selected by author Elizabeth Gilbert for inclusion in the Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Bestsellers Memoir anthology. She majored in English and History from Rutgers University.