General Reasons For Palpitations

health May 20, 2021
Heart model to explain how the heart works to patients
Photo by Robina Weermeijer / Unsplash

A heart beating too hard or too fast, skipping a beat or adding an extra beat, fluttering or pounding heart, irregular heartbeats, or a combination of all these sensations is called Palpitations.

Palpitations cause pumping of blood by heart harder than usual.
Premature contractions of atria cause the upper chambers of heart (atria)  to contract a fraction of a second earlier than they should. Premature contractions of the heart's upper chambers cause forceful contraction of the lower chambers (ventricles) to clear out the extra blood they accumulated during the pause. These may cause palpitations that may be brief or prolonged. Such premature beats are always not life-threatening or the sign of a heart attack.

Symptoms include dizziness, shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing, headaches, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), excessive sweating, pain in arms, neck, chest, jaw, or upper back and pain, pressure, or tightening in the chest.

General Reasons For Palpitations

Palpitations are either heart related or  non-heart-related

Heart related palpitations may lead to complications such as Fainting, Cardiac arrest, Stroke, Heart failure.
If the heart beats rapidly, or  blood pressure drops, or suffers from congenital heart disease or certain valve problem, it will cause fainting.
Heart related palpitations that lead to life-threatening arrhythmias ( irregular heartbeats), can cause the heart to stop beating(Cardiac arrest).
Upper chambers of the heart quiver instead of beating properly (Atrial fibrillation),causes clots to form and if a clot  blocks a brain artery, it may cause a stroke.
Arrhythmia, due to  atrial fibrillation, causes heart failure.

Heart related palpitations are caused due to

Prior heart attack
Coronary artery disease
Heart failure
Heart valve problems
Heart muscle problems
Arrhythmias causing a very fast heart rate (tachycardia), an unusually slow heart rate (bradycardia) or an irregular heart rhythm
Abnormal heart rhythms (ectopic beat, junctional escape beat, premature ventricular contraction, atrial fibrillation, supraventricular tachycardia, ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, heart block).

Non-heart-related palpitations

Non-heart-related palpitations are not due to the structural or functional abnormality of the heart. So, they are usually not serious or harmful. Though they can be frightening and worrisome,  they go away on their own.

Non-heart-related palpitations are generally caused by

Strong emotions like anxiety, fear, or stress  caused due to the panic attacks, Vigorous physical activity like exercise,  Smoking, Medical conditions such as thyroid disease, a low blood sugar level, anemia, low blood pressure, fever, and dehydration, Medications, such as diet pills, decongestants, asthma inhalers, asthma remedies, and some drugs used to prevent arrhythmias (a serious heart rhythm problem) or to treat an underactive thyroid.

Cold and cough medications that contain a stimulant, pseudoephedrine.
Some antibiotics, Beta-blockers and  decongestants, Hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, or just before menopause
Some herbal and nutritional supplements, Gastrointestinal bloating, indigestion and hiccups which may cause overstimulation of the vagus nerve causing palpitations, Abnormal levels of electrolytes,
After having heavy meals rich in carbohydrates, sugar, or fat.
Eating foods with a lot of monosodium glutamate (MSG), nitrates, or sodium
Muscular imbalances and poor posture

Photo by Andres Siimon / Unsplash


A. Sandhya

M.Sc Zoology

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