Heart palpitations and ectopic beats
Heart palpitations are heartbeats that become more noticeable.
Heart palpitations could feel like your heart is pounding, fluttering, or beating erratically. These symptoms can also cause you to feel nauseous and light-headed.
Palpitations are the onset of a trigger response and even though they may seem alarming, in most cases they’re relatively harmless and are not a sign of a serious problem.
People with heart palpitations may feel an extra or missed beat. These are known as ectopic beats and are also usually nothing to worry about.
My own personal experience.
“Today Saturday 18th September 2021 I am home alone. I have just had an argument with a hosting provider trying to scam me and whilst on the phone, I could feel my blood pressure rising and I started to shout at the person on the other end of the phone.
It has been two hours since I ended the first call, I have had made many since then and done 3 posts and I am still feeling dizzy and my heart is pounding. I am trying to calm myself down but it is not easy when you are talking to stupid people. Their total disregard for your health and ignorance makes my blood boil”.
“I also feel very sick and even though I have eaten I am not feeling very well at all”.
Causes of heart palpitations
Typical causes of heart palpitations include:
- lifestyle triggers
- emotions and psychological triggers
- hormone inbalance
- heart rhythm problems
- heart conditions
- other medical conditions
Common triggers of heart palpitations include:
- strenuous exercise
- work related stress
- relationship stress
- money problems stress
- drinks containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea and energy drinks
- illegal drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, ecstasy and cannabis
- rich or spicy foods
In most cases, the palpitations will go away on their own. However, changing your lifestyle and life choices can help with avoiding these triggers and may help stop them from coming back.
Emotional or psychological triggers
Heart palpitations are also often caused by emotions or psychological issues, such as:
- excitement or nervousness
- stress or anxiety
- panic attacks – an overwhelming sense of anxiety or fear, accompanied by feeling faint or light headed, feeling sick, sweating, trembling and palpitations
Learning how to breathe and how to deal with a panic attack may help if you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or wound up.
Although learning how to deal with panic attacks is common sense, sometimes a trigger can happen unexpectedly and in that case, you do not have time to think straight, and doing breathing exercises especially if you are in the middle of an argument, can prove to be difficult unless you remove yourself from the equation.
Palpitations can occasionally be triggered by some medicines, including:
- asthma inhalers, such as salbutamol and ipratropium bromide
- high blood pressure (hypertension) medicines, such as hydralazine and minoxidil
- antihistamines, such as terfenadine
- antibiotics, such as clarithromycin and erythromycin (I’m allegic to erythromycin)
- antidepressants, such as citalopram and escitalopram
- antifungal medicines, such as itraconazole
Speak to a GP if you think a medicine may be causing your heart palpitations. But do not stop taking a prescribed treatment without first getting medical advice.
“The problem with me is that my GP has made no effort to contact me other than the practice manager and the cluster pharmacist that read my letter which was received 25th May 2021 and marked confidential. So my faith and trust in this particular practice have gone straight out of the window. If I need medical attention I will just go straight to A&E”.
Heart palpitations in women can sometimes be the result of hormonal changes that happen during:
- menstraul cycle
- the menopause
In these cases, the palpitations are usually temporary and not a cause for concern.
Heart rhythm problems
Heart palpitations are sometimes caused by a problem with the heart rhythm (arrhythmia), such as:
- atrial fibrillation – this is the most common type, where the heart beats irregularly and faster than normal
- atrial flutter – a fast and irregular heartbeat
- supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) – abnormally fast heart rate
- ventricular tachycardia – a more serious condition where the regular heartbeat is typically fast. It can be associated with dizziness or blackouts
Some heart palpitations may be associated with other types of heart conditions, such as:
- a problem with the heart valves, such as mitral valve prolapse
- hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – where the heart muscle and walls of the heart become enlarged and thickened
- heart failure – where the heart is unable to pump blood around the body properly
- congenital heart disease – birth defects that affect the normal workings of the heart
Some of these conditions can be serious and often require treatment.
Other medical conditions
Other conditions that can cause heart palpitations include:
- an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) – where the thyroid gland produces too much of the thyroid hormones
- a low blood sugar level (hypoglycaemia) – this is most commonly associated with diabetes
- types of anaemia, which affects the red blood cells
- postural or orthostatic hypotension – dizziness and low blood pressure triggered by changing position (such as standing up)
- a high temperature
When to see a GP
You do not usually need to see a GP if the palpitations pass quickly and only happen occasionally. They’re unlikely to be caused by a serious problem and probably will not need treatment.
But it’s a good idea to see a GP if:
- the palpitations last a long time, do not improve or get worse
- you have a history of heart problems
- you’re concerned about the palpitations
To help find the cause, a GP may:
- ask about your symptoms and medical history
- arrange a blood test
- carry out an electrocardiogram (ECG) to check your heart rate (if the GP has the equipment available)
If you cannot have an ECG at the GP surgery or the GP wants to arrange heart monitoring over a longer time period, you may be referred for tests at a local hospital.
When to get emergency help
Call 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E if you have heart palpitations and any of the following symptoms:
- severe shortness of breath
- chest pain or tightness
- dizziness or light-headedness
- fainting or blackouts
These symptoms could indicate a serious or potentially life-threatening heart problem that should be checked by a doctor straight away.
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