Heart palpitations are a common cardiovascular complaint. While not all individuals that experience palpitations have serious underlying health issues, some heart palpitations are indicative of abnormal heart rhythms or heart disease. There are a number of clear signs and symptoms of palpitations and treatments for the condition vary.
Heart palpitations are best described as the sensation of the heart beating irregularly. Under normal circumstances, an individual is not consciously aware of his or her heart beating. When experiencing a palpitation, the heart seems to be beating loudly and forcefully, sometimes seeming even to stop momentarily.
There are a number of cardiovascular signs and symptoms an individual may experience during episodes of palpitations. These include chest pain, a feeling that the heart is pounding loud enough to be heard audibly, the sensation that the heart is "fluttering" or "flip-flopping" in the chest, an awareness that the pulse is not rhythmic, and the sudden feeling of the pulse strongly in the head or neck.
A number of neurological signs have also been linked to palpitations, including dizziness, fainting spells, a feeling of uneasiness accompanied by excessive sweating, and, in some cases, severe bouts of anxiety or panic attacks.
Heart palpitations can be caused by a wide spectrum of things, ranging from diet to serious underlying health conditions. The most common causes of palpitations are excess stress, smoking and large amounts of caffeine or alcohol consumption. Other external causes include the use of drugs, such as amphetamines or cocaine.
Palpitations caused by an underlying health condition are more serious. Panic disorder, problems with the thyroid gland, heart disease, anemia, lack of oxygen, hypoglycemia and serious heart arrhythmias are all conditions that have heart palpitations as a symptom.
Treatment of heart palpitations that are linked to a dietary or lifestyle reason is simple: reduce consumption of caffeine, alcohol or the drugs causing the problem; quit smoking; take steps to decrease stress; and learn to manage stress better.
For other patients, treating the underlying health condition is the key to treating the palpitations. If the cause remains unidentified, however, and the palpitations remain frequent and severe, the use of drugs that regulate heart rhythms may be appropriate.