- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
What Can Cause Heart Palpitations?
The Human Heart...Atria, Ventricles and Electrical Conduction System
Everyone of us from time to time, has most likely experienced our hearts beating a bit faster or thumping a little harder then at other moments. For the most part this is not unusual and we may also have been able to visualize the pulse in our necks or chest itself-heaving ever so slightly.
This is absolutely normal and you should not be too concerned if you have experienced feelings like this after excercising; or maybe even after you had managed to get into a heated argument with an individual, or even with your spouse for that matter.
These abnormal sensations if you will, or rapid pulsations are real enough and are produced from blood being pumped away from your heart and throughout your entire body. You are certainly not imagining this when you are aware of your heart beating in your chest quicker than usual because in actuality you are feeling it doing just that.
The normal heart rate in men is (60-100) beats per minute; in a woman that number is slightly higher. Palpitations as I mentioned earlier in the article are perfectly normal, especially if you are excited, anxious or have just completed a rigorous exercise routine.
Palpitations however are not always normal, especially if you have been sitting in your favorite lounge chair for the last four hours reading your favorite novel; and all of a sudden you begin to feel your heart start to beat faster and faster for no reason at all.
On occasion this may be perfectly normal, but not always. Particularly if the palpitations are accompanied by shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting or chest pain. You may even have experienced or felt like your your heart is skipping or missing a few beats as you are experiencing these palpitations.
If you are experiencing an abnormal heart rhythm or skipped beats with the palpitations this may be a reason for concern. Particularly if you have the above symptoms that I mentioned here, with these palpitations.
If Palpitations come on abruptly and you know that you already have underlying heart disease confirmed by your physician, then you should be more concerned when you are getting the palpitations and/or abnormal heart rhythms.
Cardio related palpitations do not always occur during the daytime either, they can occur at anytime of the day, come on suddenly and even can wake you in the middle of the night. Certain types of Arrhythmia's, that occur in the Atria or upper chambers of your heart can lead to heart palpitations.
Atril Fibrillation, or AFIB, is one type of Arrhythmia that can cause this very fast heart beat. This in turn is caused by an interruption of the electrical conduction pathway signal of either the SA Node (Sinatorial Node) or AV (Atrio-ventricular) node located in the right atrium of the heart. To note...the heart has four total chambers, two above, called the atria, and two ventricles located below the atria.
AFIB may also be caused by a leaky mitral valve for example, or if you have a heart murmur that is not a direct cause of heart related disease. When a premature contraction, or heartbeat occurs earlier than normal, this can also produce a feeling that can lead to more of a forceful sensation of the beating of the heart.
Bradycardia or a heart rate, below sixty beats per minute on the other hand is abnormal for the most part. It is not uncommon for trained athletes to have bradycardia bowever. Bradycardia can also be classified as an arrhytmia just like Tachycardia, or Atrial Fibrillation are considered to be arrhythmias. Bradycardias can also lead to varying degrees of Heart Block.
This particular rhythm disturnance of the cardiovascular system; ranges from first degree to third degree. Third degree is considered more serious requiring treatment, wheras first degree heart block usually is non life-threatening or not serious and does not require any form of medicinal treatment.
Different types of medications can interfere with the signal in the electrical conduction system of the heart as well and cause certain arrhythmias to occur without warning. Beta-Blocker drugs...Metroprolol or Lopressor can for example cause the heart ot beat much slower than normal. Other medications to control hypertension or high blood pressure can also cause palpitations of the heart muscle.
Below is a list of some other diseases or conditions that can also cause heart palpitations. The list and definitions of all of these conditions are too numerous to go more in depth within this particular article. They are basically for you the reader, to familiarize yourself with and be aware of them.
- Smoking or nicotine
- Lyme Disease
- mitral valve prolapse
- low levels of vitamin K or potassium
- certain medications
The above illnesses and disorders listed are some of the more common conditions that can cause heart palpitations. Your physician or cardiologist if you are referred to one by your family health care practitioner; can attach a holter monitor to you for a twenty-four hour period.
The holter monitor is like a miniature EKG machine with electrodes attached to your chest. You wear the monitor around your waist on a belt or over your neck on a strap. It will record any abnormal heart rhythms or palpitations that you develop during this period, while asleep or doing your daily routine.
When your physician analyzes the results, he or she will be able to determine if you do indeed have some sort of underlying heart problem going on or rule out that there are no problems.. Also the physician may give you a more advanced test called an echocardiogram which looks at the aorta, and other areas of your heart as it is pumping blood through other areas of your body.
Usually a physician can detect and also confirm heart murmurs with an echocardiogram. In addition here are certain blood tests that can pick-up abnormalities in your body that are leading to abnormal arrhythmias or palpitations. Specific enzyme blood tests can further detect almost immediately, if you had suffered a mild heart attack or not for example.
If your consistent rapid heart rate cannot be specifically related to any abnormal or underlying heart condition. Then maybe it could be related to your current life style. Cutting down on coffee or limiting your intake of alcohol may help.
If you are a moderate drinker and tend to favor the drink, then reducing your consumption of alcohol can reduce episodes of palpitations. Also try cutting down on nicotine if you do smoke. This is easier said then done. But smoke alone can cause your heart to palpate unexpectedly, besides its not good for the rest of your body.
Let's face it we all have stress in our lives and live in a stressful world. By reducing some of the stress in our lives, either by listening to music, doing enjoyable things with friends like hiking or even reading a couple of good books a week can help reduce your stress. Try setting up a home aquarium in your living room.
An aquarium can do wonders for not only lowering your stress level, but blood pressure as well. In addition taking up yoga for example; where you are exercising at least thirty minutes a day, three times a week, can be very beneficial for the cardiovascular system. Over time you will see a dramatic drop in your pulse just from the exercise alone.
By practicing some of the aforementioned, you will not only be taking steps in the right direction. But will without doubt, be doing some of the more natural and common things to help reduce the chances of palpitations from occurring in the first place.
Also if you do get a sudden attack of palpitation's or development of a sudden very fast heart rate; try taking in some deep breaths or try this...take your head, place it down between your legs with your hands on each side of your head, than try pushing hard as you can outwards, as if you were attempting a bowel movement.
I know the latter part as previously mentioned above, does not sound too appealing, but believe me I have talked to folks that have told me this is very effective in assisting with arresting the palpitations. Just don't try to visualize yourself sitting in the bathroom on the throne when peforming this procedure, but rather try doing it on a more sturdy or comfortable chair.
Remember the heart palpitations you are experiencing are normal, because your heart is still beating and pumping blood throughout the rest of your body. And there is nothing out of the ordinary occurring here, except excitement causing excitement, from possibly coffee stimulation or from nocotine products.
If you do get palpitations with arrhythmia's and are especially accompanied by dizziness, fainting spells or difficulty breathing. This in turn may not be normal and you may need to consult your doctor or cardiology specialist sooner then later.
There are also medications that are used to slow an already abnormal or rapid heart rate. Calcium Channel Blockers, verapamil or norvasc to name a couple in this class, can also be used to control tachycardia or palpitations.
Also try placing a bayer aspirin (Sublingually)-beneath the tongue, if you are experiencing angina, or chest pain associated with the palpitations. The aspirin, 81mg. or higher generally acts as an analgesic for someone experiencing chest related pain. Whether it is or isn't related to abnormal heart rhythms.
On the other hand, if you do not have a problem with bradycardia or slow heart rate and are getting palpitations continually or an abnormally fast arrhythmia, than your doctor may prescribe a beta-blocker. Inderal, and Lopressor, and a newer drug called Bystolic are a few of the medications used to control fast heart rates or palpitations.
In today's society where the majority of us suffer from some form of depression and/or depression mixed with anxiety-(social anxiety disorder), it is not uncommon at all to experience palpitations more so then individuals who do not have this problem.
It's also a known fact, that some of us can handle stress or emotions better than others...nothing to be ashamed of because a lot of times it simply has to do with our genetic make up-nothing more, nothing less!
A good many individuals have also relied on older anti-anxiety agents to control stress and palpitations. A few of these popular drugs or Benzodiazepines are Valium, Ativan and Xanax and Clonazepam. Clonazepam is a good choice in not only controlling anxiety attacks but the palpitations that are often associated with this so-called - impending feeling of doom! Fight or flight syndrome you could compare the feeling to.
In addition Clonazepam is less addicting than medicines like Xanax and Valium and the (Half-Life) in turn is shorter. Half-Life refers to the drug not staying within your body as long and gets eliminated from your system quicker by way of metabolism breakdown within the liver.
Also try increasing your B-Vitamin intake, particularly Vitamin B-1, which is Thiamine. Palpitations have also been contributed to low levels of this B vitamin. Basically all said...if you take care of your body it in turn will take care of you.
Look at it this way...if you put a poor grade of gas in your car, and it calls for lets say a higher octane gas, it certainly won't run better with that lower octane gas, right? Same thing with your body, if you drink more soda and coffee then water or juices, your body in the long run isn't going to perform or feel as good.
It's like the car with the poor octane gas that is placed in its tank. It sputter's and hesitates often upon acceleration. Palpitations in this instance can be the result of too many of the soda's, and other caffeinated products along with the alcohol and nicotine you are putting into it, that can cause it too beat abnormally fast or just too hard-you get the idea.
Its better to be safe then sorry if you have been experiencing palpitations for some time. Make an appointment with your healthcare professional and get the palpitations evaluated. This will only help to reassure, that you just have to may have to make some adjustments in your overall lifestyle.
If your doctor finds otherwise via testing that you do have abnormal heart rhythms in conjunction with your palpitations, you will be glad that you did follow-up with treatment, because it could someday make a difference between life and death.