Weird Things That Can Mess With Your Heartbeat
Learn the top triggers of heart palpitations, plus what to do about each one.
A few weeks ago I thought I was having a heart attack. My morning started out normal: I woke up at my usual hour, feeling what I thought was a little bit of tiredness. But as I went about my morning routine, things grew scary. I broke out in a cold sweat as I brushed my teeth. My skin turned white as paper. And then, scariest of all: my heart was pounding like crazy. As a health writer I know these aren’t textbook signs of a heart attack, but I also know that dangerous cardiovascular events in women can be more subtle than those in men.
Later that day I went to urgent care, but an EKG and blood tests showed nothing out of the ordinary. Turns out my heartbeat went haywire as a result of a side effect from a medication. The technical term for this: heart palpitations, which can be brought on by many things.
When a person says theyre having heart palpitations theyre referring to a sensation of their heart beating differently. Or they may simply have an awareness of their heart beating, explains Shephal Doshi, MD, director of cardiac electrophysiology at Providence Saint Johns Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
Learn about some top triggers of palpitations, plus what to do about them.
Most Common Causes For Heart Palpitations
If youve ever felt your heart skip a beat, flutter, flip-flop, pound, or otherwise beat oddly, youve experienced heart palpitations. In most cases, heart palpitations arent cause for concern. But if you also have pain or shortness of breath, you feel dizzy, or you faint, you should get checked out.
The experts at Heart & Vascular Institute have treated patients with all kinds of heart palpitations, that stem from a variety of causes. In this post, we describe some of the most common reasons you may have heart palpitations.
High Blood Pressure And Palpitations
- Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Reviewed on 12/1/2020
High blood pressure and a sense of fluttering in the chest can occur due to electrolyte imbalances or heart rhythm disorders . These symptoms can also occur due to temporary conditions like stress reactions, anxiety, panic attack, or excessive caffeine use. Keep track of when these symptoms occur, and seek the advice of your doctor if you are concerned.
While the list below can be considered as a guide to educate yourself about these conditions, this is not a substitute for a diagnosis from a health care provider. There are many other medical conditions that also can be associated with your symptoms and signs. Here are a number of those from MedicineNet:
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Why Foods Cause Heart Palpitations
Feeling palpitations after eating is a relatively common experience, which tends to occur when a substance in your food or drinkor your bodys natural biochemical response to that substancejolts the hearts electrical system and causes fluttering sensations, skipped beats, or a feeling that your heart is beating too hard or too fast.
Coffee drinkers, think about the last time you drank one cup too many. You know what I mean!
If your heart is healthy and you have no history of arrhythmia or heart diseaseand youre not experiencing any other symptomstheres little need to worry about an occasional episode of these irregular beats. For people who do have arrhythmias or cardiac issues, however, its a different story. Palpitations caused by food can cause an existing disruption in your hearts rhythm to escalate, and potentially lead to a major event.
A Lot Of Diagnoses A Lot Of Misunderstanding
A June 2020 paper in the Journal of Atrial Fibrillation , describes the lesser-known diagnoses of a racing heart and the problem of heart rate messaging miscommunication in the autonomic nervous system.
The cardiovascular branch of the autonomic nervous system is responsible for the regulation of heart rate, blood pressure, and maintaining homeostasis during physiological stress such as exercise and standing upright. The autonomic nervous system constantly controls the rate and force of heart contractions and the vascular tone with the aim to maintain the sufficient tissue perfusion with oxygenated blood and secure venous return to the heart. .
- Dysautonomia problems of or dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system.
Dysautonomias, the result of an autonomic nervous system malfunction, is often found in patients with cardiovascular symptoms. Apart from the most prevalent one, arterial hypertension , the cardiovascular dysautonomic continuum encompasses other important although less known conditions: postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, inappropriate sinus tachycardia, orthostatic hypotension and reflex syncope . Moreover, heart diseases may evoke autonomic imbalance by themselves cardiac pump failure is usually associated with sympathetic hyperactivity , neuroendocrine vasopressor activation , higher heart rate, reduced heart rate variability and baroreflex hyposensitivity , all of which are predictors of adverse outcomes.
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What Do Heart Palpitations Feel Like
Heart palpitations produce a sensation where it feels like the heart is fluttering, pounding, or skipping beats. Many people are scared when they feel heart palpitations. The good news is that most causes of heart palpitations are not serious and do not need treatment. If you know what causes heart palpitations, it may ease your mind when you feel them. However, some causes of heart palpitations are serious so you should learn when to be concerned about heart palpitations and when to see a doctor.
Unexplained Swelling Especially Around Your Legs Ankles Or Feet
Swelling is your bodys natural response to inflammation or fluid buildup. From itchy bumps left by mosquito bites to pain and tightness in an injured area, swelling can be caused by a range of different conditions.
But if youre noticing that areas around your body are getting larger especially your legs, ankles or feet and you cant tie it to a known condition, medication or injury, dont ignore it.
The swelling youre experiencing may be simply annoying, like being unable to get your shoes on. However, it can also be painful. The swelling may make your skin more sensitive, and you may notice it becomes worse at the end of the day or when youre standing for a long time.
The good news is that there are treatments, such as compression socks, that can help reduce or manage swelling. But youll want to discover and treat the root cause, too.
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Fixing The Vagus Connection Vagal Tone Vagus Nerve Stimulation And Stabilizing
Much has been said about fixing, repairing, or increasing vagal tone with various vagus nerve stimulation techniques. Vagus nerve electrical stimulation may be one aspect of how we support the repair and reversing of cardiovascular-like symptoms. It is however typically not the primary treatment strategy we employ. Our treatment goal is to remove the compression on the nerves, arteries, and veins that travel through the cervical spine from the brain to the body and back again. We achieve these results by stimulating the repair of the cervical spine ligaments. The connected tissue prevents the bones of the cervical spine from wandering out of place and impinging, squeezing, and compressing the nerves and blood vessels. While electrical stimulation can help repair vagal tone, cervical spine curve correction and cervical spine stability will prevent nerve compression.
What Medications Are Usually Prescribed To Prevent Palpitations
There are a large number of medications that are used by physicians that are used to treat more serious types of heart rhythm disorders. These are usually prescribed by a heart specialist because they do have significant side effects and if not used correctly can cause serious cardiovascular problems, even a cardiac arrest or sudden death.
When used correctly, these powerful medications can prevent serious heart rhythm disorders from occurring and can be quite useful, although most patients would prefer not to be on them because of their cost, side effects, and they often must be taken multiple times a day.
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What To Do If Foods Cause You Heart Palpitations
First off, take note if you feel any additional symptoms, because those could signal that youre experiencing more than simple palpitations. Seek emergency medical help if at any point you also have:
- Shortness of breath
- Pain or discomfort in the upper back, arms, neck, or jaw
- Feeling of impending doom
If its the first time youve ever noticed heart palpitations, make a follow-up appointment with your doctor. Its likely nothing is wrong, but its always best to err on the side of caution and make sure that the food-related episode isnt the first sign of a bigger issue.
Next, start a log and record times when the palpitations recur. Note what you ate or drank and what sort of emotional state you were in. If specific foods or beverages tend to cause recurrences, take that as a sign you should reduce or eliminate those foods from your diet. Your body and your heart couldnt be telling you any more clearly that those substances are doing you harm.
Medications For Afferent Baroreflex Dysfunction Hypertension/hypotension Why They Do Not Work For Many
Afferent Baroreflex Dysfunction can be caused by many problems. It can be caused by tumor development in the neck, it can be caused by radiation therapy in oncology. It can be caused by neck surgery, it can be caused, Familial dysautonomia it can be caused by any compression on the nerves, arteries, and veins that pass through the neck, such as compression or injury on the carotid sinus nerve, a branch of the glossopharyngeal nerve. In this scenario, high blood pressure may be caused by simply turning your head one way or the other and creating compression or pressure on the glossopharyngeal nerve.
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What Are We Seeing In This Image How Blood Pressure Can Be Affected By C1
This image displays the close proximity of the vagus nerve, the glossopharyngeal nerve, and the spinal accessory nerve to the C1-C2 vertebrae. This proximity makes compression of these nerves common in cervical spine instability.
- When a person has cervical instability those nerves can get compressed and they can get stretched. Some of the nerve impulses can be blocked. When this happens you could get tachycardia that comes and goes. If you move your head in a certain direction all of a sudden you could get tachycardia or lightheartedness because your brain isnt getting the right sensory input because there are problems in the nerve conduction of the vagus nerve and the glossopharyngeal nerve.
The vagus nerve and the glossopharyngeal nerve runs in front of the cervical vertabrae C1-C2 and branch out to innervate the receptors in the carotid sinus and the aortic arch that control blood pressure. The aortic arch is the top part of the aorta and carries blood away from the heart.
When atlanto-axial instability is present, blood pressure issues can occur because of impairment in the vagus and glossopharyngeal nerve function.
How Could A Pacemaker Improve Heart Palpitations
In recent years, patients with the most severe types of heart rhythm disorders have benefited from sophisticated pacemakers and devices capable of correcting the heart rhythm with an electrical shock delivered automatically after the heart rhythm disorder occurs. Obviously, these are highly specialized devices, and they are normally prescribed and tested by heart specialists.
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What About Medicine Interactions
If you use 2 or more medicines at the same time, the way your body processes each one can change. When this happens, the risk of side effects from each medicine increases. Each medicine may not work the way it should. Be sure your doctor knows all of the medicines you are taking. These include over-the-counter and prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Also ask your doctor whether you need to avoid any foods or drinks while using your blood pressure medicine. For example, people taking certain CCBs may need to avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice.
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 to check your heart rate
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.
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Are Premature Ventricular Contractions Life Threatening
If someone has normal heart function and no evidence of structural heart disease, the PVCs are a nuisance, but benign. If the PVCs are so symptomatic as to be disruptive, try eliminating all of the factors such as caffeine, certain foods, stress, before considering any treatment with medications. When we do treat with medications, we usually try to use simple medications such as beta-blockers first before going on to specific anti-arrhythmic agents. Very frequently, this is enough to improve patients’ symptoms.
What Are Heart Palpitations
Have you ever felt your heart skip a beat or flutter in your chest? If so, youve experienced heart palpitations. A broad medical term, the term palpitation can mean many different things, including:
- Feeling like your heart is beating too quickly
- Feeling your heart thump in your chest
- A heartbeat that feels irregular/out of rhythm/skips a beat
Any sensation that makes you aware of your heart beating is a type of palpitation. You can even feel these sensations in your throat or neck.
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Medical Treatment For Heart Palpitations
If self-help techniques don’t work, and palpitations are still bothersome, you may want to try some medical options. Medications called beta blockers are sometimes used to treat heart palpitations. They slow the heart rate and control the flow of “beat now” signals that regulate the heartbeat.
Sometimes a medical procedure called an ablation is needed. It can control palpitations caused by errant electrical signals in the heart.
Are Pvcs That I Can Feel More Significant Than Those I Can’t
There is no prognostic difference between the PVCs that are felt by the patient and those that are not. Obviously the symptomatic PVCs are of more concern to the patient because they can be annoying and distracting. Beyond that, the PVCs are all the same, prognostically. In most patients who are otherwise healthy, PVCs on a Holter are of little prognostic value regardless of whether they’re experienced or not.
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Your Mysterious Symptoms And Cervical Spine Problems
Heart Rate Variability has become a new and popular subject for longevity experts and advanced sports science. Simply if your heart is always racing, doesnt rest, if it does not have slow beats with consistent heart rate variable, you are at higher risk for disease and premature death from cardiovascular events. This is not the subject of this article. This article deals with your mysterious symptoms, like those explained above. Dizziness, balance issues, panic attacks, loss of consciousness, possible problems with digestion, breathing, headaches, and other possible problems caused by cervical spine instability pressing on the vagus and cervical nerves.
The stories of racing hearts
I had bulging discs up and down my neck. But it is not significant enough to operate on. For now, I would just have to manage along with my neck pain, shoulder pain, and if my heart raced, I should find a quiet place to rest and avoid caffeine and sugary food.
I have been having neck and shoulder pain going on for one year now. I am young, 25, athletic, do a lot of working out in the gym. I woke up one morning, my arm left arm was numb and I had significant shoulder pain. I thought I slept on it wrong, but the numbness persisted, the pain came and went. After a few weeks, I went to the doctor, had an MRI. The doctor said, nothing wrong here, and that I should come back if things did not get better on their own.
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