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Here's Why You Shouldn't Take Palpitations Lightly

In a healthy heart, the heart rate is between 60 to 100 beats a minute. When there is a palpitation, the rate fluctuates either too fast or too slow.

News18.com

Updated:June 9, 2020, 9:24 PM IST
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Here's Why You Shouldn't Take Palpitations Lightly
In a healthy heart, the heart rate is between 60 to 100 beats a minute. When there is a palpitation, the rate fluctuates either too fast or too slow.

Palpitation is an irregular, rapid, skipped or strong heartbeat. While some people experience it very rarely, others may feel these sensations quite often. These palpitations are caused due to certain disturbances in the heart’s normal rhythm and can lead to the heartbeat becoming too fast or too slow.

It usually happens when one is stressed out, anxious, physically exhausted or is suffering from some illness. Consuming large amounts of caffeine or alcohol dehydration, hyperthyroidism, certain medications such as cough medicine, diet pills or recreational drugs can also trigger irregular heartbeats.

Some palpitations occur due to a slightly increased duration of contraction in the atria i.e. the upper chamber of the heart, leading to the skipping of a beat. It can also occur due to atrial fibrillation which is a rapidly irregular heart beat caused due to abnormal electrical activity in the atria. Just like the upper chamber of the heart, contractions in the below chamber i.e. ventricles also cause palpitations.

How are they diagnosed

It is difficult to diagnose palpitations and their seriousness because they generally come and go and may not last for a longer duration. Therefore, it is important to consider certain factors before seeking medical advice. These include monitoring the heartbeat (whether it is too fast or slow), checking for symptoms such as dizziness, syncope (fainting), chest pain or shortness of breath, frequency and duration of palpitations.

They are diagnosed through a physical examination, blood tests or electrocardiogram (ECG). In case the patient has a racing pulse or dizziness, an electrophysiology study can be recommended. For more advanced cases of palpitations, a 24-hour monitoring can be conducted to assess the heart’s rhythm through a Holter monitor.

How can they be managed

Simple palpitations or the ones that are harmless can be managed by undertaking the following precautions:

● Quit smoking

● Reduce or quit the consumption of alcohol

● Get adequate sleep

● Avoid stress or anxiousness

● Engage in deep breathing techniques to regulate your breathing and reduce stress

● Drink enough fluids to keep yourself well hydrated

● Eat regular meals as low blood sugar can trigger palpitations

Palpitations and Arrythmia

In a healthy heart, the heart rate is between 60 to 100 beats a minute. When there is a palpitation, the rate fluctuates either too fast or too slow, and while palpitations are mostly harmless, in certain cases, they can be the sign of an underlying heart problem such as cardiac arrythmia.

Arrythmia occurs when the electrical impulses that coordinate heartbeats do not function properly, resulting in the heart to beat irregularly. The slow heart rate is known as bradycardia and the fast one is called tachycardia. While in some people, arrythmias may cause the heart to skip or add a beat with no effect on overall health or the ability to lead a normal life, in certain cases they can be life-threatening. When left undiagnosed or untreated, they can hinder the heart’s pumping ability, causing fatality.

Therefore, while palpitations are commonly experienced by everyone, they should not be ignored.

(Author By Dr Ulhas M. Pandurangi is MD, Chief of Division of Cardiac Electrophysiology & Pacing at Madras Medical Mission)

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