Heart palpitations and what to do

For those experiencing palpitations for the first time it can be a frightening experience.

For those experiencing palpitations for the first time it can be a frightening experience. Your heart may appear to skip beats, beat rapidly, beat irregularly or thump in the chest.

Yet palpitations are very common and often completely harmless. It's normal for men in their 20s and 30s to experience palpitations - or as though your heart's skipped a beat - and they rarely last longer than a few seconds. But in few cases they can be a sign of serious heart problems.

There are a number of causes such as anxiety, caffeine, medications, drugs such as cocaine and other amphetamines, emotional stress, overheating and vigorous exercises. Symptoms of palpitations such as dizziness, shortness of breath and chest pain may be signs of a more serious problem and medical attention is required as soon as possible. When you are exercising or if you have a fever, such as flu, or an overactive thyroid gland, your heart rate often increases. However your heart rate may speed up or flutter if you feel sick or nauseous, and if it hammers too quickly it may cause you to faint.

Usually an electrocardiogram (ECG) will be used to monitor the heart and diagnose the palpitations. Most palpitations require no treatment and persistent palpitations can be treated with specific anti-arrythmic drugs. Alternatively treatments can also help, such as aromatherapy, Chinese herbs, herbal therapies, homeopathic medicine, exercise, mind/body medicine (yoga and meditation) and healthy nutrition.

But if you think you are or have experienced frequent palpitations or anything severe enough to cause shortness of breath/pallor/sweating/ fainting/pain you should consult your doctor as soon as possible.

© BikeRadar 2007

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