Does your heart suddenly start to flutter or feel like it's suddenly racing? If so, this uncomfortable and often unnerving sensation is known as a heart palpitation. Some people rarely experience this while others may experience this issue several times a day. Palpitations are often harmless, though they may not seem like it at the moment, but can be a sign of an underlying cardiac issue or a health problem that will require treatment.
What causes heart palpitations?
Many heart palpitations seem to appear out of nowhere. You may notice it when falling asleep or when standing up after periods of sitting. Other things that can trigger heart palpitations include,
- Low blood sugar
- Alcohol or caffeine
- Stress and anxiety
- Heart disease (e.g., atrial fibrillation; supraventricular tachycardia)
Since it can be difficult for a doctor to catch palpitations while they are occurring, it’s often challenging to figure out what’s causing them. When you come into our cardiologist’s office, Dr. Al-Adli will ask questions regarding the symptoms you’ve been experiencing. Before coming into our office, you may wish to keep a journal of your palpitation symptoms making sure to include,
- When your heart palpitations start
- When you notice them the most or how often you notice them throughout the day
- Whether you experience other symptoms such as lightheadedness, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- What you were doing when the palpitations occurred
- What you’ve eaten or consumed during the day
We will go through your medical history and then perform a physical examination to listen for a murmur or any signs that the palpitations could be heart-related. If we suspect anemia or another systemic health problem, blood work should be performed.
An echocardiogram (ECG) or exercise stress test may also be recommended by Dr. Al-Adli and his team. An ECG can help us analyze the electrical activity of the heart to look for heart rhythm disorders and other disturbances, while an exercise stress test may be recommended if you notice chest pain along with your palpitations.
Patients may need to wear a heart monitor for 24 hours to catch palpitations while they are happening. Electrodes are adhered to the chest and connected to a little handheld recorder that you can easily place into your pocket. This device will be worn for 24 hours and may be able to catch palpitations or other unusual activity. In some cases, patients may be required to wear their monitor for several days or even a whole week.