Palpitation is the sensation of the heart beating irregularly. It could be harmless or a symptom of something more serious. Understand.
Palpitation is the term that describes the sensation that occurs when a person feels an abnormality in the heartbeat. This sensation can correspond to strong, fast, slow and irregular heartbeats, or a combination of these.
This condition may correspond only to a single and isolated beat, or to several simultaneously, and may last for long periods. It can occur from time to time, being harmless, or it can be caused by a more serious problem.
It is important to know that each part of the heart it has the potential to suffer irritation and cause an extra palpitation, for example. The electrical circuits of the heart system can trigger palpitations by firing in an abnormal way.
What causes palpitations
There can be several factors that contribute to having palpitations. The causes may be associated with heart problems, and when this happens, palpitation may be a symptom of arrhythmia, generally. Causes can also be linked to having already had a heart attack, coronary disease, heart failure, and problems related to heart muscles and valves.
Factors that are not related to heart problems and cause palpitations are:
- Anxiety, stress, and strong emotions like fear (which often occur during panic attacks)
- Excessive physical activity;
- Consumption of caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines;
- Medical conditions such as thyroid disease, low blood sugar, anemia, low blood pressure, fever and dehydration;
- Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and menstruation, and/or even before menopause. Palpitations during pregnancy are sometimes a symptom of anemia;
- Medicines such as: weight loss pills, decongestants, asthma inhalers and medication to treat arrhythmia and thyroid problems;
- nutritional supplements;
- Irregular electrolyte levels.
When to see a doctor
If the palpitations are sporadic and last only a few seconds, it is not necessary to go to the doctor. But if you have a history of heart problems and frequent palpitations, or if you notice that these are getting worse, it is advisable to consult a doctor, especially with severe chest pain, fainting spells, shortness of breath and dizziness.
Then tests will be done to see if the palpitation is a symptom of something more serious.
Treatment depends on the cause of the palpitation. In most cases this condition is harmless and disappears by itself, not requiring any type of therapy.
Some treatments involve changes in lifestyle. Doing relaxation exercises, yoga and meditation helps relieve stress and anxiety, making the palpitation disappear.
Avoiding the consumption of alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and drugs is also a way to prevent and end palpitations.
Not taking medication that is a stimulant, such as cough and cold medicines and nutritional supplements is another way to control palpitations.
can also be prescribed medication to help with palpitations as soon as your doctor identifies the cause. Beta blockers and calcium channel blockers are examples of medications your doctor may recommend.
Article originally published in October 2021. Updated in September 2022.