Heart palpitations are the sensations you feel like your heart is beating too fast and too hard, fluttering or skipping a beat. You may feel these sensations in your chest, neck or throat. Though these may go on their own and don’t usually indicate any serious health issues, they are frightening and bothersome. You may have them many times due to excess alcohol, caffeine o nicotine intake. Sometimes, you may get palpitations due to anxiety and stress as well. However, in some cases, palpitations may also indicate some serious underlying heart issue. Let us understand how to deal with palpitations and when to see a cardiologist to address them.

What are the symptoms of heart palpitations?

Heart palpitations come in many different forms — a fluttering feeling in your chest, a sensation that your heart is beating too fast, a feeling like your heart has skipped a beat, or even just a noticeable pounding in your chest or neck.

In majority of the cases heart palpitations are harmless as they don’t signal any health issues, but occasionally heart rhythm disturbances may indicate a more serious heart issue – which needs to be checked out by a cardiologist.

Heart palpitations are triggered by

  • Dehydration
  • Stress, anxiety and panic attack
  • Consumptions of excess caffeine or alcohol
  • Sleep deprivation,
  • Vigorous physical activity
  • Use of decongestants, asthma inhalers
  • Taking certain medicines – diet pills, amphetamines, cough medicines and sometimes illicit drugs like cocaine

Heart Palpitations at Night

You feel pretty normal throughout the day, but as night approaches and you lie down to sleep, your heart starts beating faster than normal. This is when you tend to start worrying a lot. You may feel as if your heart is racing, fluttering and beating too fast. When this happens, you may start to worry whether it is a sign of any heart issue. In majority of the cases heart palpitations are harmless as they don’t signal any health issues, but occasionally heart rhythm disturbances may indicate a more serious heart issue – which needs to be checked out by a cardiologist.

Sometimes, some people feel palpitations when they lie down particularly on their left side. Palpitations can get worse after lying down on left side. The reason for increase in palpitations is the position of the heart next to the chest wall. This causes reverberations of the sensation. If you shift your position to the other side – right side, you will feel less palpitations.

Do people always experience palpitations at night?

No, palpitations can occur at different times. Some people may experience them while doing some physical activity or exercising – in some people, palpitations occur when they are just sitting. In some people palpitations occur when they get ready to go to sleep or while they lie down on bed.

When are palpitations a sign of major health or heart problem?

In most of the cases, palpitations are not very serious, but sometimes, they may indicate a serious heart problem or another health issue. Therefore, when you experience palpitations persistently for long – for instance, for more than a minute or two at a time and at regular intervals or when you experience rapid heartbeat more often, then you should pay a visit to a doctor.

More importantly if you experience palpitations with chest pain, fainting, dizziness, weakness or fatigue and shortness of breath, then you should immediately get medical attention.

How you feel palpitations?

You will feel as if a flipping fish got stuck inside your chest. Next, your palpitations move faster than they appear. And then the same flip, flop feeling – again. You feel somewhat fine in between and then the same feeling. As the palpitations comes and go you will start to worry. This is something that needs medical attention.

How are palpitations linked to disturbances in the heart?

You feel palpitations when one of the cavities: atria (the upper cavities) in your heart or one of the two chambers – the ventricles contracts too soon – causing disruption of your heart’s rhythm. After your doctor takes your medical history and looks you over, he may order tests to find the cause. If he finds one, the right treatment can reduce or get rid of the palpitations.

Your palpitations could be due to these heart conditions: heart failure, a prior heart attack, coronary artery disease, heart muscle problems and heart valve problems.

What are the underlying medical conditions that can cause palpitations?

Low blood sugar, low blood pressure, arrhythmia (tachycardia, bradycardia), anaemia (low levels of iron can cause deficiency of red blood cells) and an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism), abnormal electrolytes levels, hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy can cause palpitations.

Bottom Line

Many times, it has been found that the symptoms related to heart attack went unnoticed by doctors. This in most cases happens when doctors assume rapid heart rate to be due to stress – particularly in women.

When this issue happens in younger women, doctors normally don’t take it very seriously. However, it could prove real problem and potentially harmful even in younger women. Therefore, it needs serious attention of doctors.