How Is a Heart Palpitation Dangerous?

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Heart palpitations are essentially a series of brief irregular heartbeats. They can manifest as a rapid or pounding rhythm of the heart as well as a fluttering sensation within your chest. It's also possible for a heart palpitation to seem as if your heart is actually skipping a beat. Regardless of how you experience this event, most occurrences of these palpitations are harmless, as they often stem from things like caffeine, nicotine, exercise, stress or even medications. However, it is also possible for a heart palpitation to be dangerous, especially when it's a symptom of a serious condition.

Ventricular Fibrillation

While most people who experience heart palpitations are completely healthy, these irregular sensations can be problematic if the palpitation is a result of a ventricular fibrillation, which is a form of an arrhythmia that causes the lower two chambers of your heart to quiver or beat out of time with the upper two chambers. Since the heart isn't beating properly, blood flow within your body can decrease (or even cease), causing a drop in blood pressure and potential damage to your other organs. This can lead to heart failure, a stop in breathing and even death.

Atrial Fibrillation

Another potential way in which a heart palpitation could be dangerous is if it is caused by an atrial fibrillation. Much like a ventricular fibrillation, the chambers of the heart beat out of time with the others. But instead of the lower two chambers beating irregularly; it is the upper two chambers that are affected by the condition. When this occurs, you are at a greater risk of suffering a stroke or heart failure.

Tachycardia

A heart palpitation may also be dangerous when it is caused by a condition known as tachycardia. With this type of irregular heartbeat, your heart beats at a significantly faster rate than normal, which can eventually disrupt its overall function. This may lead to heart failure, heart attack or stroke. If this condition is isolated to the lower portion of your heart, it can cause sudden death.

Bradycardia

On the flipside of tachycardia, a heart palpitation may be dangerous when it is caused by a condition known as bradycardia. In this type of irregular heartbeat, your heart actually beats as a significantly slower rate than normal. With the reduction of heart contractions, blood flow is greatly limited, depriving the body of oxygen and nutrients. This may also lead to heart failure, cardiac arrest and death.

High Blood Pressure

When heart palpitations are due to high blood pressure, their occurrence may be a cause for alarm. Often referred to as hypertension, your blood pressure experiences an increase that can place unneeded pressure on the heart, causing it to beat irregularly. With this irregular rhythm, especially for prolonged periods of time, blood flow may be reduced to the brain and other organs as well as the heart, leading to heart failure, tissue damage or stroke.

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