It can be scary when you feel your heart beating faster or harder than usual, fluttering or skipping a beat. These sensations are known as heart palpitations and are usually felt in the chest or neck. We expect our pulse to increase when we exercise or to feel our heart pounding in our chest when we feel strong emotions of anger or fear, but when our hearts act up with no apparent reason, it can be quite alarming.
These palpitations are normally considered harmless, but they are sometimes related to a more serious health issue that may require attention. Therefore, if you experience new or more frequent palpitations, you should contact your doctor and rule out potential underlying causes. Far more often, palpitations are caused by ailments not related to your heart, by stress or by lifestyle factors, such as consuming too much alcohol or caffeine.
Here is a list of just some of the reasons you may be having heart palpitations:
• Stress or anxiety
• Consuming too much nicotine, alcohol or caffeine
• Consuming large meals high in sugar or fat
• Taking diet pills or using illegal stimulants, such as cocaine or amphetamines
• Physical exertion
• Low blood pressure
• Low blood sugar
• Electrolyte imbalance
• Taking supplements
• Consuming foods to which you have a sensitivity
• Hormonal changes
With so many potential causes for palpitations, how can you determine what is making your heart beat too fast or skip a beat? The first step is consulting your doctor to rule out serious health conditions that can cause palpitations. Once those potential causes have been ruled out, it is time to take a look at your lifestyle and try to determine your triggers.
Consider keeping a health journal where you record episodes of palpitations, foods and drinks you consume, physical activities and potential triggers. You may discover that your palpitations occur only when you have that unusual third cup of coffee, consume foods that contain nitrates or use your asthma inhaler. If you find that your palpitations seem to occur after smoking or on days when you do not drink enough water, you can likely reduce your palpitations by not smoking or making sure you stay hydrated.
If you can determine your triggers and make lifestyle changes to avoid them, you may be able to reduce or eliminate bothersome episodes of palpitations. If you are unable to determine your triggers, you may want to work with your doctor to further explore potential underlying health issues that may have initially been overlooked, such as anemia or low blood sugar.