Author -Dr Christianez Ratna Kiruba
Did your heart skip a beat the time your crush looked at you did you feel heart palpitations? Did you also feel your heart racing when you were called upon by the teacher to answer a question? Well, that is your heart responding to neurotransmitters in situations of risk or anger, and is completely normal. Similar increases in heart rates in times of high demand for oxygen such as during physical exercise, heightened emotional reactivity such as instances of anger and rage, or even after consumption of caffeine is completely normal.
However, are you feeling an elevation in your heartbeat during rest or sleep? Well, that might be an indication of something sinister going on. Also known as heart palpitations, this uncomfortable awareness of one’s own heartbeat can be a marker of many issues – both within the heart or outside of it.
What are the causes of Heart palpitations?
Some non-heart related causes of heart palpitations will include fevers (where every one-degree rise in temperature can have an increase of heart rate by ten beats), low hemoglobin which causes the heart to work extra hard to bring oxygen to various parts of the body, or hormonal conditions like excessive thyroid hormone or excessive adrenaline (called phaeochromocytoma) both of which increase the heart rates. In these conditions, the heart rate will increase but the ECG rhythm will mostly follow the normal pattern. This is also known as sinus tachycardia. When we look at the ECG strip, it will appear as though it is a normal ecg wave but the waves are crowded together.
Other heart-related causes of heart palpitations mostly act by disrupting the normal conduction pathway of the heart. They could be due to blood clots in the arteries supplying the heart, or due to some disease in the heart valves. They may also sometimes be genetic. The ECG strip in these cases might show sinus tachycardia but might also show variations in the waves. In a few cases, P waves may be absent and in a few others, there may be extra P waves. Some of these conditions are harmless while others could be potentially life-threatening. And in those cases, early identification and quick treatment can help the patient immensely.
So when must you get checked?
If you have palpitations along with chest pain or discomfort, dizziness, or breathing difficulty, it needs medical attention. If you have palpitations when you are resting, sleeping, or otherwise unexcited, it might be prudent to get the same checked out as well. If anyone related to you, especially parents or grandparents has had heart-related ailments or similar symptoms then it warrants evaluation as well. Lastly, if the symptom feels significant to you, it is important to validate yourself and get a medical check-up!
So if you have been having a racing heart on and off for some time and haven’t gotten it looked at, this is your sign to do so!
Heart palpitations can occur in individuals for numerous reasons. So, it is not a matter to fret every time. Many times, your heart races or you feel a flutter in the heart due to a fleeting panic attack or some other factor, so it is of no danger to your heart. However, if the episodes of heart palpitations are too frequent and your heart rate doesn’t go down at rest, then it can be concerning. Prolonged heart palpitations can cause cardiac arrhythmia and other conditions, so you must know when to seek help. In the case of many prolonged episodes of heart palpitations, it is best to opt for prompt medical intervention and ask for their help. Keep in mind that to maintain the ideal state of your cardiovascular health, you must learn these intricacies about it and you shall stay heart healthy forever.