When you do strenuous exercise, you probably have heart palpitations. Have you ever woken suddenly from a nightmare, with your heart racing? That was a heart palpitation. The feeling of your heart skipping a beat is very common, and usually not problematic.

But sometimes, heart palpitations are a good reason to schedule an appointment with the experts at Maryland Cardiology Associates in Greenbelt, Maryland. In this post, we look at some of the more serious causes of heart palpitations — such as arrhythmia or heart disease—and how you can tell the difference between ordinary palpitations and those that indicate a problem.

No worry necessary

Most of the time, you don’t need to be overly concerned about heart palpitations. For example, if you have a scare and you feel like your heart is skipping beats, but then you calm down and it stops, you probably don’t need to worry. The same is true if you drink an extra cup of coffee, or even if you didn’t sleep well the night before.

Many common things can cause heart palpitations, such as:

  • Strenuous exercise
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Nicotine
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Dehydration
  • Some over-the-counter medications
  • Some prescription medication
  • Fear or emotional distress

Of more concern

Although feeling your heart race or skip a beat isn’t always a cause for concern, it can be. For example, many medical conditions can cause that heart-racing sensation. For example, if you have a fever, you may feel as if your heart is pounding while you lie in bed.

Many of the medical conditions that can cause palpitations aren’t serious, or can be easily treated but you still need some medical supervision. For example, having a thyroid disorder can cause heart palpitations and serious complications if it remains untreated. Other medical conditions that may be associated with heart palpitations include:

  • Hormone changes associated with pregnancy or menopause
  • Sleep apnea
  • Low levels of oxygen in your blood
  • Blood loss
  • Low blood sugar
  • Anemia

If you have heart palpitations along with other symptoms, or if you experience palpitations more often than occasionally, it’s a good idea to see a doctor to rule out any conditions that should be treated.

When to get immediate help

If you have a diagnosed heart or vascular condition, such as peripheral artery disease, and you have palpitations, you should get help right away. Other times palpitations require immediate help include if you:

  • Feel dizzy, weak, or lightheaded
  • Faint or lose consciousness
  • Are confused
  • Have problems breathing
  • Begin to sweat excessively
  • Feel pain or pressure in your chest, neck, arms, jaw, or upper back
  • Have a heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute (and you’re not exercising)
  • Feel like you can’t take a full breath

If you’re not sure, get help

If you aren’t sure if what you feel is serious or not, make an appointment to be evaluated. It’s always a good idea to make sure your heart is healthy! Our experts at Maryland Cardiology Associates are happy to answer your questions. Call our office or schedule a visit online today.

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