Heart palpitations may feel as if your heart is skipping a beat or beating too hard and fast. You should always seek medical attention if this happens to you. While palpitations are typically harmless, they could be a warning sign of heart trouble.
The team at Metropolitan Cardiovascular Associates in Beltsville, Bowie, and Columbia, Maryland, led by board-certified cardiologist Ayim Djamson, MD, is here to help you keep your heart as healthy and strong as possible.
Take a few moments to learn more about heart palpitations and why it may seem like your heart is skipping a beat.
What causes heart palpitations?
For most people, heart palpitations appear abruptly and disappear just as quickly. They can be linked to certain activities, or even strong emotions like panic and anxiety. Palpitations are commonly triggered by:
- Heavy exercise
- Alcoholic beverages
Medical conditions like overactive thyroid and low blood sugar can trigger heart palpitations. Dr. Djamson performs a comprehensive evaluation to accurately diagnose abnormal heart rhythm and determine a cause. Sometimes the cause is unknown.
Are heart palpitations dangerous?
Because heart palpitations can be an indication of heart trouble, it’s best to have a cardiologist check how well your heart is working. The following are circumstances that can produce palpitations.
Upper chamber trouble
Your heartbeats are a complex, synchronized process that keeps your heart pumping blood at a steady pace. Problems develop when the electrical impulses that coordinate heart rhythm are dysfunctional. Sometimes such episodes are brief, and in some cases it can be chronic.
For example, when the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) contract earlier than they should, the heartbeat is thrown out of rhythm. You may feel this as a forceful contraction or skipped heartbeat as the lower chambers of the heart clear out blood. Instead of a steady beat you may notice a brief pause.
Atrial fibrillation causes a serious disruption in the heart’s rhythm that, if not controlled, can increase the risk for stroke and heart failure. In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart beat irregularly, not in coordination with the lower chambers.
If you have atrial fibrillation, you may experience shortness of breath and fatigue. Some episodes of atrial fibrillation are brief and go away on their own. Persistent atrial fibrillation requires treatment to avoid serious complications.
Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is a fast, erratic heartbeat affecting the heart's upper chambers. Unless you have existing heart problems like damage to the heart, SVT is not life-threatening.
Most people with SVT lead normal lives. If you’re diagnosed with SVT, Dr. Djamson discusses whether you need treatment.
Trouble in the heart’s lower chambers
To have a normal heart rhythm, the upper and lower chambers must beat in coordination. When the lower chambers of the heart contract early, palpitations can occur. This may cause short-term symptoms before the heart rhythm returns to normal.
Brief episodes usually aren’t a cause for concern, but you should tell your provider if this happens often or episodes last longer.
Sinus node problems
The sinus node is your heart’s pacemaker. Its job is to keep time and set the rhythm of your heartbeat. If the sinus node isn’t working properly, the upper and lower chambers of the heart can lose coordination, causing an erratic heartbeat.
Never ignore unusual heart symptoms. Let a medical professional check your heart and determine if you need care. Early detection and intervention can save your heart health and your life.
To schedule a heart checkup and for all of your cardiovascular needs, call our knowledgeable staff or book online today. Your heart will thank you.