Palpitationsâ€” sensation that the heart has started to race or pound, or feels like it has skipped a beatâ€”are usually caused by a harmless hiccup in the heartâ€™s rhythm. Sometimes, though, palpitations reflect a problem in the heart or elsewhere in the body.
Some palpitations result from premature contractions of the heartâ€™s chambers or malfunctions of a heart valve. But a physical exam and electrocardiogram often donâ€™t turn up any problems, which can be frustrating to the patient. If your palpitations arenâ€™t accompanied by dizziness or other symptoms and if you donâ€™t have a valve disorder or other structural problem with your heart, that usually means palpitations are benign.
If you have unexplained palpitations, start with simple steps to help alleviate them.
Cut back on caffeine, smoking, and alcohol; avoid over-the-counter decongestants, eat and drink regularly, get enough sleep, and find a way to relax if you are stressed. In some cases, your doctor may recommend medications or a procedure to correct errant electrical signals in the heart.
Also in this issue:
â€¢ Cutting back on salt leads to longer life
â€¢ Inherited high cholesterol poses serious risks
â€¢ Ask the doctor: Red yeast rice and cholesterol; blood pressure differences in arms