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HEART PALPITATIONS CONDITIONS THAT MAY REQUIRE HEART MONITORING

Understanding is the key to finding answers.

HEART PALPITATIONS

Heart palpitations are relatively common and usually a harmless condition in which the heart feels as if it is pounding, racing or fluttering.

Heart palpitations account for 16% of symptoms that cause patients to go to their primary care doctor, second only to chest pain as the reason patients seek a cardiology evaluation.1-3

While concerning, palpitations usually are harmless. However, in some cases they may indicate a more serious heart condition, like a heart rhythm disorder, that requires treatment.


WHAT CAUSES HEART PALPITATIONS?

symptoms

  • Rapid heartbeats
  • Fluttering heartbeats
  • Skipped heartbeats
  • Heartbeats that feel like they are pumping harder than normal

You might feel palpitations in your chest, throat or neck. They can occur while you’re at rest, exercising or going about your normal routine.

POSSIBLE CAUSES

  • Emotional responses such as anxiety, stress, panic or fear
  • Exercise
  • Fever
  • Hormone changes associated with pregnancy, menstruation or menopause
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Certain over-the-counter and prescription drugs
  • Caffeine and nicotine use
  • Diet pills
  • Illegal street drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines (speed)

Risk factors

  • Stress, anxiety or panic attacks
  • Medications that contain stimulants, like some cold or asthma drugs
  • Pregnancy
  • Overactive thyroid gland
  • Other heart issues

HEART MONITORING CAN UNLOCK THE ANSWER

If your doctor suspects that your heart palpitations are heart related, heart monitoring may be necessary.

Heart monitoring is used to either identify or rule out a heart rhythm disorder and to determine the right course of treatment.

Types of heart monitoring vary in terms of how long they can be used and how information is captured. Common types of heart monitoring systems include:

  • Holter Monitors
  • Event Recorders
  • Mobile Cardiac Telemetry Systems
  • Insertable Cardiac Monitoring Systems

TALK WITH YOUR DOCTOR

These talking points will help you remember important information related to your heart palpitations to share with your healthcare team.

Remember to Share:

  • A description of your symptoms (if applicable)
  • The number of episodes you’ve had in the past 2 years
  • What you were doing before you had symptoms
  • Any concerns you have (e.g., safety, your job, driving)
  • Any treatments you are receiving for your heart
  • If your family has a history of heart conditions
  • How your symptoms are affecting your home and work life

Remember to Ask:

  • How will you determine what is causing my heart palpitations?
  • What tests will you perform?
  • Would long-term monitoring with an insertable cardiac monitor lead to a faster diagnosis?
  • What should I do when I experience heart palpitations?
  • Should I be concerned about my heart palpitations?
  • Will I need treatment? If so, what kind of treatment? What other alternatives are there?
  • Do I need to restrict any activities?
  • Is it safe for me to exercise and go about my other daily activities?
  • Should I see a specialist?

TREATMENT OPTIONS

In most cases, no treatment will be needed. Other times, heart palpitations are treated with lifestyle changes or medication.

Lifestyle Changes

To help control heart palpitations, simple lifestyle changes can be implemented:

  • Reduce your anxiety level with deep breathing or relaxation exercise such as yoga or tai chi
  • Limit alcohol
  • Limit caffeine
  • Avoid smoking and tobacco products
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid activities and medications that seem to trigger the palpitations
  • Avoid illegal drugs

Medications

Your healthcare team may decide that your heart palpitations can be controlled with medication or by making changes to your current medication. After determining the cause of your palpitations, your doctor can prescribe the appropriate medication.


1

Mayou R. Chest pain, palpitations and panic. J Psychosom Res. 1998;44:53-70.

2

Kroenke K, Arringon ME, Mangelsdroff AD. The prevalence of symptoms in medical outpatients and the adequacy of therapy. Arch Intern Med. 1990;150:1685-9.

3

Knudson MP. The natural history of palpitations in a family practice. J Fam Pract.1987;24:357-60.