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Are Heart Palpitations Caused By Heart Disease?

Sometimes, one may feel the heart pounds, flutters, or seem to skip beats. These are called palpitations that may be bothersome or even frightening, but most of them are not serious and seldom require treatment. They often go away on their own. Most of the time, they are caused by stress and anxiety, or because one had too much caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol.

Intense emotions like anxiety, fear, or stress can cause heart palpitations that often happen during panic attacks, which are intense bouts of fear lasting a few minutes. Symptoms include a racing heart, sweating, chills, trouble breathing, and chest pain. A panic attack can feel like a heart attack.

Caffeine, whether from coffee, soda, energy drink, tea, chocolate, or other sources, as well as nicotine from tobacco products can raise heart rate. Quitting smoking is a good way to prevent heart disease, but it might not slow the heartbeat right away. Patches and other nicotine replacement products can make heart race. Palpitations can also be a symptom of nicotine withdrawal, though they should stop within 3 to 4 weeks after quitting. Heavy alcohol drinkers can cause the heart to beat faster or fluttering, but for some people, it can happen even when they only drink a little bit.

Other causes of palpitation include vigorous physical activity, medical conditions like thyroid disease, a low blood sugar level, anemia, low blood pressure, fever, and dehydration, hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, or just before menopause. Medications such as diet pills, decongestants, asthma inhalers, and some drugs used to prevent arrhythmias or treat an underactive thyroid, and some herbal and nutritional supplements can cause heart palpitations, too. Some people have palpitations after heavy meals rich in carbohydrates, sugar, or fat. Eating foods with a lot of monosodium glutamate (MSG), nitrates, or sodium can sometimes bring them on. If one has heart palpitations after eating certain foods, it could be due to food sensitivity.

Nevertheless, if one has heart palpitations too often or also has symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, fainting, the palpitations can be related to heart disease. When they are, they are more likely to represent arrhythmia, an irregular heart rhythm.

There are various types of arrhythmias. Atrial fibrillation (AFib) happens when the heart's upper chambers - the atria - flutter instead of beating normally. Atrial flutter is a rhythm disturbance that can be fast and either regular or irregular. Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is an abnormally fast heartbeat that starts in the heart's upper chambers. It is common in young, otherwise healthy, people. Ventricular tachycardia is a fast heart rate due to faulty signals in the heart's lower pumping chambers, called the ventricles. It is a more serious and can be linked to dizziness or blackouts. Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) are extra heartbeats, which happen when the heart's ventricles squeeze too soon. The extra beat throws off the heart's normal rhythm and makes it flutter, pound, or jump in the chest. If the heart is healthy, occasional PVCs are nothing to worry about. But treatment is needed if one has heart disease and gets these extra beats frequently.

Prior heart attack, congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease, heart failure, heart valve problems (mitral valve prolapse) and heart muscle problems (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) are some of the heart conditions tied to palpitations. Congenital heart disease is birth defects that affect the normal workings of the heart. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a condition where the heart muscle and walls of the heart become enlarged and thickened.

Depending on the cause, most palpitations are harmless and should go away on their own. Very often, if the doctor could find the cause, palpitations can be avoided simply by adjusting lifestyle. For instance, easing anxiety and stress by doing some relaxation exercises; cutting intake of certain foods, beverages, and other substances like alcohol, nicotine, caffeine; avoiding medications that act as stimulants, should lower the change of getting palpitations. If lifestyle changes do not work, the doctor might prescribe medications like beta-blockers or calcium-channel blockers. If the palpitations are due to heart problems, the patients should seek help from cardiologists.




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