What are palpitations?

Palpitations are heartbeats that are perceived as violent or rapid, and may be felt in the chest, throat or neck. When this occurs, the heart rhythm may be normal or abnormal.

Normally, the human heart beats between 60 and 100 times per minute. In athletes or people taking medications to slow the heart rate, the heart rate may be below 60 beats (bradycardia). Conversely, if a person’s heart rate exceeds 100 beats per minute, he or she is tachycardic. An extra heartbeat is called extrasystole.

Prognosis of the disease

Palpitations are not usually serious. It is necessary to verify that they are not the result of an abnormal heart rhythm and we are facing an arrhythmia.

Symptoms of palpitations

Palpitations manifest themselves as an unpleasant sensation in which the heart beats too hard and too fast. It is usually a response to a situation of anxiety or excessive stimulation.

Palpitations manifest with an unpleasant sensation in which the heart beats too hard and too fast.

Medical tests for palpitations

The specialist may need different tests to diagnose heart palpitations, such as electrocardiogram, Holter or echocardiogram.

What are the causes of palpitations?

Palpitations are usually caused by anxiety, stress or panic attacks; caffeine or nicotine use; cocaine and other illicit drug use; exercise and fever, among others. In addition, there are conditions that may increase the likelihood of having an abnormal heart rhythm, such as:

  • Previous heart disease (arrhythmias).
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Abnormal heart valve
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Significant risk factors for heart disease
  • Anemia
  • Electrolyte abnormality in the blood
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Can it be prevented?

It is possible to prevent palpitations by following some habits, such as:

  • Regular moderate exercise
  • Avoiding anxiety and stress
  • Treating underlying diseases
  • Avoiding tobacco, alcohol and coffee.

Treatments for palpitations

The treatment of palpitations will depend on the causes that have provoked them. It is usually based on a change in the patient’s diet and lifestyle, including physical exercise and avoidance of stimulants. Sometimes, if the problem originates in the heart or any of its parts, surgery may be necessary (to change a valve or install a pacemaker).

Which specialist treats you?

The specialist who treats palpitations is the cardiologist, and should be consulted in case of chest pain, dizziness or lightheadedness, shortness of breath, unusual sweating, or loss of alertness.