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Heart palpitations can happen now and then, often causing no harm, and may subside on their own. As per Heart Doctor in Delhi at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, persistent heart palpitations alongside other serious symptoms do need immediate medical attention as they indicate a possibility of life-threatening, underlying cardiac health issues.

This post provides details of heart palpitations and guides the patients as well as their family members on when to be concerned about heart palpitations and seek medical attention from a heart doctor or an emergency room.

What are heart palpitations?

Heart palpitations are the rapid pounding, racing, flopping, thumping, or fluttering of the heart in the chest, neck, or throat. The feeling of the heart rhythm being off, beating hard or missing on its beats, is faced usually by an individual for a few seconds, minutes, or even hours any time when sitting, being physically active, or while lying down.

What causes heart palpitations?

Heart palpitations can be alarming if they occur frequently or persistently for an unidentified cause. They can be caused due to many reasons including:

  • Anaemia (not enough healthy red blood cells in the blood)
  • Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar level)
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Thyroid disease (where the right amounts of thyroid hormones are not produced)
  • High-impact exercises or strenuous physical activities
  • Hormonal changes (in women during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause)
  • Strong emotions (such as stress, anxiety, and depression)
  • Medications containing pseudoephedrine (like medicines for colds and coughs)
  • Certain stimulants (such as nicotine, cocaine, caffeine, and amphetamines).

When heart palpitations are not a cause of concern?

Heart palpitations aren’t a worrisome issue if they are:

  • Brief; subsides in a few seconds
  • Infrequent; occur less often
  • Not associated with any other symptoms
  • Not linked to an underlying heart ailment or family history of cardiac problems.

When heart palpitations are an emergency according to a heart doctor?

Heart palpitations become an emergency if they are:

  • Long-lasting; lasting for a few minutes, hours, or even longer
  • Frequent; 6 or more times every minute or in groups of 3 or more within a short time
  • Affecting life quality
  • Associated with new symptoms or symptoms that get worse
  • Associated with an underlying serious heart health
  • Running in family
  • Happening besides other symptoms.

Some symptoms occur alongside heart palpitations and should be watched for as they indicate a medical emergency. These include:

  • Chest pain, tightness, or pressure
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Pain in the upper arm(s) or back; jaw; or neck
  • Abnormal or excessive sweating
  • Light-headedness, dizziness, or loss of consciousness
  • Symptoms that don’t get better with breathing exercises.

How to get to the emergency wing of the hospital?

Those who are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in the above section are advised not to drive on their own to the hospital. They must immediately ask their nearest people for help either to take them to the hospital or call for an ambulance. By going in an ambulance, the emergency medical technician can start the patient’s medical care while the patient is brought to the hospital, thereby helping the patient to be stabilised and recover soon.

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What to expect when entering the emergency room of the hospital for heart palpitations?

It is better to be aware of what will happen as soon as the patient with heart palpitations is brought to the emergency room so that things go smoothly without doubts.

On the arrival of the patient with heart palpitations in an emergency room, the urgent care/medical staff note down the patient’s symptoms and complaints and then conduct a physical exam. To figure out the main cause of the symptoms associated with heart palpitations, the emergency doctor even ran some tests.

The different diagnostic tests may include:

  • ECG (Electrocardiogram)- to record the electrical activity of the heart
  • Echocardiogram- to create a moving picture of the heart with the help of sound waves
  • Holter monitor or event recording- for continuous recording of electrical activity of the heart for 24-72 hours
  • Chest X-ray- to see still images of the heart using electromagnetic radiation
  • Stress test- to see how the heart works when the body is physically active
  • Sonogram or ultrasound scan- used as a medical imaging tool to create pictures of the heart
  • Blood or urine tests- to check for other conditions like anaemia and thyroid disease.

Meanwhile, the diagnosis is made, the doctor stabilises the patient with medications.

Following diagnosis, the doctor provides certain suggestions on what can be done to treat the symptoms and even asks the patient to track for any changes in symptoms. The doctor may even ask the patient to get hospitalised for further diagnosis and treatment. If not hospitalised, the heart doctor may ask the patient to revisit a cardiologist in the coming weeks to check for heart health.

How to stop or avoid infrequent or brief heart palpitations?

Some lifestyle modifications can be very beneficial for heart palpitations. They may include:

  • Stress management through relaxation techniques or therapies
  • Avoiding or limiting intake of stimulants
  • Having a heart-healthy diet and doing regular exercises
  • Avoiding situations or triggers that induce heart palpitations.

Heart concerns are now common. Ignoring the symptoms is not a good idea. If one is having any questions related to their heart health, they must consult a good doctor or Hospital.

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