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HEART PALPITATIONS EXPLAINED

Updated: Jul 9, 2023



The heart is a complex organ and there are a variety of conditions and symptoms associated with it. Heart palpitations are among the most common heart complaints and can leave a person feeling uneasy and confused. In this article, I will explain what heart palpitations are, what causes them, and how to manage them effectively.


What are heart palpitations?

Heart palpitations are a common condition characterized by a noticeably recurrent awareness of the heart beating rapidly, hard, or irregularly. These sensations can range in intensity, may be constant or come and go, and last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes. Heart palpitations can be frightening; however, they are generally not serious and are more often a sign of a benign condition.


What causes heart palpitations?

The most common cause of heart palpitations is an increase in adrenaline levels due to anxiety, fear, or stress. Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and recreational drugs can also contribute to palpitations. Hormonal fluctuations related to menstruation or menopause can also trigger palpitations as can certain illnesses such as anemia, thyroid disorder, and heart disease.


There have been a number of studies conducted on the causes, symptoms, and management of heart palpitations. The "American Journal of Cardiology" published a study by Bo et al that evaluated the prevalence and triggers of palpitations in 2,256 adults. Their study showed that the most common triggers were intense emotional events, with anxiety being the most commonly reported trigger.


The journal "Current Problems in Cardiology" published a study by Blom et al that examined the prevalence, etiology, and triggers of palpitations. This study included 2,050 adults between 18 and 90 years old and revealed that palpitations are most commonly caused by an increase in sympathetic nervous system activation and can be triggered by stress, caffeine, nicotine, and some drugs.


How to effectively manage palpitations?

The most important step in managing heart palpitations is to identify and address the underlying cause. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, relaxation techniques, and stress management can help reduce the frequency and intensity of palpitations. It is important to track and note the frequency of palpitations, as well as triggers and accompanying symptoms. If your palpitations are severe, they persist, or they cause chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or fainting, it is important to seek medical care.



The journal "Canadian Family Physician" published a study by Wenger et al that examined the diagnosis and management of palpitations. They concluded that most causes of palpitations are benign, however, in some cases, it can signify underlying heart disease and should be monitored. Furthermore, they suggested that lifestyle changes such as exercise, stress reduction, and relaxation techniques, as well as avoiding known triggers can be effective in managing palpitations.


Heart palpitations are common and generally not serious, but should still be monitored. Identifying the underlying cause and taking measures to reduce stress, improve lifestyle, and practice relaxation and stress management techniques can help reduce the frequency and intensity of palpitations. For severe palpitations, medical care should be sought to ensure the proper diagnosis and treatment.



Physicians guide

As we know, palpitations can be a common and often harmless symptom, but it’s important to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing them. A thorough history of the patient’s symptoms and physical exam, labs, and EKG to rule out any cardiovascular problems.


Commonly, benign heart palpitations can be managed with lifestyle changes, such as reducing stress, quitting smoking, and limiting caffeine and alcohol intake.

It’s important to educate patients on the potential triggers of heart palpitations and to provide them with strategies to help prevent them. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help reduce the risk of palpitations, as well as manage stress levels and avoid smoking.



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