What are heart palpitations?
That odd sensation in the middle of your chest can be alarming, but often it’s just a misfire in your heart rhythm. A series of electrical impulses keep your heart pumping; when one of the impulses is mistimed, you’ll feel palpitations in your chest. Most of the time it’s nothing, but they can be a sign of something dangerous. There are numerous types of heart rhythm disorders, says cardiologist, Dr Denice Hodgson-Zingman. “Some of them make the heart beat irregularly, and this can be perceived as a sensation of ‘flip-flops,’” she says.
Symptoms to watch for
If those electrical impulses fire in the wrong order, you can have the sensation of neck fullness and heart pounding, says Dr Hodgson-Zingman. “Other rhythm disorders consist of intermittent single extra beats or runs of beats. Because these extra beats are too fast to allow the heart to pump blood efficiently, it can feel as if your heart is skipping beats.” According to cardiologist, Dr Joe Lau, palpitations may also feel like a fluttering or racing sensation.
“Palpitations are a symptom, so there’s no way to generally define what they feel like because, like all symptoms, the way that it feels varies from one patient to another,” says electrophysiologist, Dr Emily Zeitler. She says palpitations require a diagnostic evaluation by your doctor.
Sign: you often have palpitations
“Depending on the exact causes, some patients may have symptoms infrequently, while others may have several continuous episodes a day, sometimes with each episode lasting for several minutes at a time,” Dr Lau says. Chances are, if palpitations are only occurring rarely, you don’t need to rush to the doctor. Less serious causes for palpitations can include stress, anxiety, caffeine, alcohol, illness, or pregnancy, he says.