Worrying heartbeats, causing stress & anxiety?

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Palpitations treatment and information

Palpitations is a word used by different people to describe different things. In some it is simply being aware of their heartbeat, others use it to describe a forceful heartbeat – ‘a huge thump’ or the sensation that they feel the heart pounding. Common feelings are: ‘my hearts going to jump out of my chest’. It can also be used to describe an irregular heartbeat – the heart can be felt to skip a beat, missed beats or just feel irregular all the time.

A standard interpretation of palpitations is a fast regular or irregular heartbeat lasting at least 5 to 10 seconds (can go on for hours). These episodes are more worrying if associated with feeling dizzy, light headed, chest pains or even passing out. Most episodes of palpitations are not due to anything worrying or dangerous & will not need treating.

What causes Palpitations?

The heart has it’s own pacemaker which sets the rate at which the heart will beat – this changes with what the person is doing or how they are feeling/thinking. The electricity from the pacemaker travels down the hearts own wiring system which allows the heart to beat in a specific way. Sometimes another area of the heart starts throwing off electricity which disrupts the heart’s own wiring & makes it beat in a slightly different way. These abnormal beats are called ectopic beats.

The majority of people see cardiologists or heart specialists like myself in clinic, are worried about palpitations, are suffering with ‘ectopic beats’. These most commonly occur when your relaxed & not doing anything – such as lying in bed at night, before you fall asleep, watching TV or reading a book/magazine.

You feel your heart give out a very abnormal forceful THUMP, then there can be a bit of a pause & then you feel a run of heartbeats. The heart can then carry on as normal or you can have another thump & the whole cycle repeats itself. When people feel this, they are obviously worried that their heart may stop or even worry that they are having a heart attack.

Ectopic Beats

Ectopic beats are not generally dangerous and do not need treating – although options are available to treat them if they are making life difficult. They should definitely be investigated if associated with dizzy episodes, blackouts, chest pain or shortness of breath.

Ectopic beats can be made worse with high caffeine intake (too much tea or coffee), drinking high energy drinks, too much chocolate & alcohol. They can also be occasionally due to hormone problems.

Episodes of a very fast heartbeat – regular or irregular, are normally taken more seriously & investigated more thoroughly – usually with a heart monitor (Holter monitor) & an ultrasound scan of the heart (Private Echocardiogram). Some people do have problems with the ‘wiring in the heart’ & beats much faster than it should do.

Atrial Fibrillation

One of the more common causes of an irregular heartbeat, especially in the elderly is a condition called Atrial Fibrillation. Here the electricity in one part of the heart is chaotic so the overall heartbeat is irregular. It is very important this is diagnosed correctly as it can result in further problems such as a stroke.

In some people, palpitations occur, but they are very infrequent (perhaps only occurring once or twice a year) but they the palpitations can be very severe and sometimes associated with severe dizzyness or even blacking out. In these situations it is possible to implant a small device under the skin called a ‘Loop Recorder‘. This can monitor the heart for up to 2 years & record very fast or very slow heart beats.

Palpitations Treatment – Derby, Burton & Solihull

If you have concerns about palpitations or worrying heartbeats and would like further input & advice, why not contact private cardiologist Dr Gill to arrange an appointment. There are a range of palpitations treatments available from a Private Cardiologist, but treatment begins with a consultation.