Palpitations is the feeling that happens when someone feels an abnormality in the normal beating of the heart. These palpitations can be an isolated extra beat, or they can run together and last for prolonged periods of time. Each part of the heart has the potential to be irritable and cause an extra beat to occur. As well, short circuits in the electrical conduction system of the heart can cause “runs” of abnormal firing. The treatments help to slow the heart rate and control the flow of “beat now” signals that regulate the heartbeat.
Every muscle cell in the heart has the potential to generate an electrical signal that can spread outside the normal electrical pathways and bundles to try to generate a heart beat. If the sino-atrial or SA node fails, then other cells in the atrium try to take over. If they fail, then the atrio- ventricular or AV node can take over but at a lower rate of about 40 beats per minute. And as the final backup, the ventricle itself can generate electricity but at a much slower rate of about 20 beats per minute.
Types of Palpitations
Extra heart beats are normal and most people are unaware that they have occurred. Every muscle cell in the heart has the potential to generate an electrical signal that can spread outside the normal electrical pathways and bundles to try to generate a heart beat. Many extra beats are normal variants and can be nothing more than an occasional irritant, but others can be dangerous – either acutely or chronically. Extra beats that originate in the atrium tend not to be as serious as those that come from the ventricle.
Abnormal heartbeats are classified by the location where they originate, if they happen occasionally or if they are clustered in runs, and if they resolve by themselves (self-limiting).
Conditions causing palpitations include:
Premature atrial contractions (PAC)
Premature ventricular contractions (PVC)
Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)
Atrial fibrillation and flutter
Ventricular tachycardia (V tach) and fibrillation
Specific types of palpitations may be due to structural abnormalities in the heart.
Women who are pregnant often experience palpitations but usually no dangerous rhythm disturbance is present.
Many of the substances that we put into our body can cause palpitations by appearing to act like adrenalin on the heart and make it irritable. Common stimulants include:
Medication such as pseudoephedrine, which is found in cold remedies.
Preventing heart palpitations:
Take these steps to decrease your chance of getting palpitations:
Try to identify your triggers so that you can avoid them. Keep a log of your activities, as well as the foods and beverages you eat, and note when you get palpitations.
If you’re anxious or stressed, try relaxation exercises, deep breathing, yoga, or tai chi.
Limit or stop your intake of caffeine. Avoid energy drinks.
Don’t smoke or use tobacco products.
If a medication is causing palpitations, ask your doctor if there are any alternatives.
Stick to a healthy diet.
Minimize alcohol intake.
Try to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control.
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