Thursday, July 05, 2012

Heart palpitations

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

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 fast (over 100 beats per minute), this is called tachycardia. A 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

Heart palpitations can be caused by:
• Anemia
• Anxiety, stress, fear
• Caffeine
• Certain medications, including those used to treat thyroid disease, asthma, high blood pressure, or heart problems
• Cocaine
• Diet pills
• Exercise
• Fever
• Hyperventilation
• Low levels of oxygen in your blood
• Heart valve disease, including mitral valve prolapse
• Nicotine
• Overactive thyroid

This following checklist has been designed to help you determine whether you have a heart rhythm problem. If you have more than one of the symptoms below, see your GP.

• Have you fainted or passed out during exercise, while emotional or when startled?
• Have you ever fainted or passed out after exercise?
• Have you ever had extreme shortness of breath during exercise?
• Have you ever had extreme fatigue associated with exercise (much more so than others of your age and level of fitness)?
• Have you ever had discomfort, pain or pressure in your chest during exercise?
• Has a doctor ever ordered a test for your heart?
• Have you ever been diagnosed with an unexplained seizure or fit?
• Have you been diagnosed with epilepsy that fails to respond to medication?
• Have you ever had exercise-induced asthma that medication didn't control well?
• Are there any family members who had a sudden, unexpected, unexplained death before age 50 (including cot death, car accident or drowning)?
• Are there any family members who died suddenly of heart problems before they were 50?
• Are there any family members who have had unexplained fainting or seizures?
Do you have any relatives with the following conditions:
• Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: thickening of the heart muscles.
• Long QT syndrome: a condition that results in a very fast, abnormal heart rhythm, which can cause fainting.
• Short QT syndrome: a congenital abnormality in the electrical activity within the muscle cells of the heart.
• Brugada syndrome: a rare genetic condition that causes the heart to beat so fast that it can affect blood circulation.
• Marfan syndrome: a genetic condition that affects the body's connective tissues.
• Heart attack at age 50 or younger.
• Pacemaker or implanted defibrillator

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