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You are here : AllRefer.com > Health > Medical Symptoms > Heart palpitations

Heart palpitations

Alternate Names : Heartbeat sensations, Irregular heartbeat, Palpitations, Heart pounding or racing


Definition

Palpitations are heartbeat sensations that feel like your heart is pounding or racing. You may simply have an unpleasant awareness of your own heartbeat, or may feel skipped or stopped beats. The heart's rhythm may be normal or abnormal. Palpitations can be felt in your chest, throat, or neck.

See also: Arrhythmia

Overview & Considerations

Normally the heart beats 60 - 100 times per minute. In people who exercise routinely or take medications that slow the heart, the rate may drop below 55 beats per minute.

If your heart rate is very fast (over 100 beats per minute), this is called tachycardia. An unusually slow heart rate is called bradycardia. An occasional extra heartbeat is known as extrasystole.

Palpitations are usually not serious. However, it depends on whether or not the sensations represent an abnormal heart rhythm ( arrhythmia). The following conditions make you more likely to have an abnormal heart rhythm:

  • Known heart disease at the time the palpitations begin
  • Significant risk factors for heart disease
  • An abnormal heart valve
  • An electrolyte abnormality in your blood -- for example, a low potassium level
Common Causes

Heart palpitations can be caused by:

  • Exercise
  • Anxiety, stress, fear
  • Fever
  • Caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, diet pills
  • Overactive thyroid
  • Anemia
  • Hyperventilation
  • Low levels of oxygen in your blood
  • Medications such as thyroid pills, asthma drugs, beta blockers, or anti-arrhythmics. (Medications to treat an irregular heart rhythm will sometimes cause a different irregular rhythm).
  • Mitral valve prolapse, a condition in which the valve that separates the left upper chamber (atrium) from the left lower chamber (ventricle) of the heart does not close properly
  • Heart disease
Pictures & Images

Heart chambers
Heart chambers

Heart beat
Heart beat

     
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Review Date : 5/1/2008
Reviewed By : David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.



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