Heart Palpitations ~ Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors and Natural Treatments
FCGCT Commentary: We recommend natural medicine over western medicine or treatment.
Heart Palpitations ~ Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors and Natural Treatments
Is your heart beating unusually fast, fluttering, or pounding in your chest? These sensations are called heart palpitations. Heart palpitations are a normal occurrence that may occur due to an intense workout or even stress. If you want to be able to calm that thumping heart of yours naturally or want to find out what could be possibly triggering it, read on.
What Are Heart Palpitations?
Heart palpitations are the sensations of pounding, fluttering, or racing of your heart. They usually occur due to stress, exercise, or even some medication that you may be on. Most of the times, this feeling is rather normal and not of much concern. But, in some situations, a fast-beating heart can be a result of some serious underlying medical condition like arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) that may need to be treated medically.
The most common signs and symptoms associated with heart palpitations are listed below.
Signs And Symptoms
- Skipping heartbeats
- A rapidly fluttering heart
- Faster heartbeats
- Pounding of the heart
- Flip-flopping heartbeats
The causes of heart palpitations are usually hard to detect. Listed below are some of the most common triggers:
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Intense workouts
- Hormonal changes
- Acid reflux or gas
Some factors can also increase your risk of developing heart palpitations. They are:
- Increased levels of stress
- Anxiety disorder
- Medical conditions like hyperthyroidism, arrhythmia, or a heart defect
- A history of heart surgery or heart attack
- Stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, and some cold/cough medications that contain pseudoephedrine.
It is best to consult a doctor to rule out other possible complications.
Your doctor will first begin by asking you if you or your family has a history of heart disease. They may then listen to your heartbeats using a stethoscope. You may be further examined for other symptoms like a swollen thyroid gland to find out the cause of your palpitating heart.
If an underlying heart condition is suspected, your doctor may further ask you to take the following diagnostic tests:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) – To record the pulses that make your heart beat.
- Holter monitoring – A portable device to record a continuous ECG for say 24-72 hours.
- Event recording – A recorder that you can wear throughout the day and push the ‘record’ button only when you are experiencing heart palpitations.
- Echocardiogram – An ultrasound of your chest to see the detailed image of the structure and functioning of your heart.
Once the cause of the heart palpitations is detected, your doctor will work on a treatment plan accordingly.
If your doctor rules out any possible complications and sees your condition as a rather normal occurrence, you can try and get your heartbeats back to normal by trying out the following techniques and tips right at your homes.
How To Stop Heart Palpitations Naturally
1. Try Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises are a great way to alleviate heart palpitations. They help reduce your stress levels and assist in managing symptoms of depression and anxiety that could be causing your heart to palpitate (1), (2).
2. Drink Water
An intense or prolonged workout can cause dehydration and increase physiological stress. Drinking water and keeping yourself hydrated is important to deal with heart palpitations as it helps in rehydrating your body post an intense workout session. It also helps reduce physiological stress and can enhance your respiratory rate post-exercise (3).
3. Vagal Maneuvers
Vagal maneuvers are techniques that can help treat a fast-beating heart (more than 100 heartbeats per minute) (4). Vagal maneuvers affect the vagus nerve, which is a long nerve that runs from your brain to your belly. There are many types of vagal maneuvers:
- Valsalva maneuver – This requires you to hold your nose and close your mouth while trying to blow air out. Sitting or squatting along with this may help further in activating the vagus nerve.
- Cough – Coughing hard can also generate pressure in your chest, thereby activating the vagus nerve.
- Gag – Try and gag with a finger for the vagus nerve activation. Your doctor may use a tongue depressor for the same.
- Hold your knees up against your chest to create pressure.
4. Electrolyte Balance
You also need to restore the electrolyte balance in your body to reduce heart palpitations. Electrolyte levels that are too high or low can affect the electrical impulses of your heart and may even lead to complications such as arrhythmia (5).
You can restore your electrolyte balance (minerals such as sodium and potassium) by consuming foods/drinks high in electrolytes such as sports drinks, coconut water, ORS, etc.
5. Avoid Stimulants
Substances like caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and illegal drugs have been linked to heart palpitations and are best avoided until you recover completely.
6. Exercise Regularly
Exercising regularly for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour daily can also help reduce heart palpitations that occur due to stress, anxiety, or depression (6).
7. Follow A Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is key for a healthy heart. Your heart palpitations could be the result of a diet that is deficient in some nutrients. Hence, it is important that you follow a healthy and well-balanced diet to resolve this issue (7).
Some foods can also trigger heart palpitations – like spicy foods, chocolate, and high-sodium foods like canned or processed foods. Hence, it is best to avoid such foods.
Aromatherapy is another way to treat heart palpitations. Diffuse any of your favorite essential oil around you and inhale the soothing essence throughout the day. This can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and stress that could be causing your heart to palpitate (8), (9).
You may also follow a few more tips to decrease your chances of developing palpitations.
- Find out what trigger(s) the palpitations and avoid them.
- Limit your intake of caffeine.
- Quit smoking.
- Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control.
If none of these help you deal with heart palpitations or you happen to develop any of the following symptoms, consult your doctor immediately.
When To See A Doctor
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Sweating excessively
- Pressure or tightening in the chest
- Pain in your jaw, back, neck, chest, or shoulder
- Pulsating rate of more than 100 while resting
You must visit a doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms as it could be due to serious underlying heart complications. While heart palpitations are usually not of much concern, if they are accompanied by these symptoms, you need immediate medical attention.
Hope this article was successful in clearing all your doubts and queries regarding heart palpitations. For any more doubts, feel free to get in touch with us in the comments section below.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
How long do heart palpitations last?
Palpitations that are infrequent or last for only a few seconds are not dangerous. However, if they are frequent and severe, you may need immediate medical attention.
Why do I get heart palpitations after eating?
Some people tend to develop heart palpitations after having heavy meals containing sugar and carbohydrates or certain foods rich in sodium and nitrates. This could be possibly due to sensitivity to certain foods.
What does a heart palpitation feel like?
A heart palpitation feels like you have skipped a beat or added an additional beat. This sensation makes you feel that your heart is thumping or pounding inside your chest.
What is the difference between heart palpitations and arrhythmia?
Heart palpitations are a common occurrence that surface as a result of strenuous physical activity or stress. However, in some cases, a palpitating heart could be the result of a serious underlying medical condition like arrhythmia that causes irregular heartbeats due to a malfunction in the heart.
- “The role of deep breathing on stress.” Neurological Sciences, US National Library of Medicine.
- “The effects of yoga on anxiety and stress” Alternative Medicine Review, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Cardiorespiratory effects of water ingestion during and after exercise” International Archives of Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Effects of vagal maneuvers on heart rate and Doppler variables of left ventricular filling in healthy cats.” Journal of Veterinary Cardiology, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Cardiac Consequences Of Electrolyte Imbalance” Methodist DeBakey Cardiovascular Journal, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Exercise as Treatment for Anxiety: Systematic Review and Analysis” Annals of Behavioral Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Heart Palpitation From Traditional and Modern Medicine Perspectives” Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, US National Library of Medicine.
- “The Effect of Aromatherapy on Anxiety in Patients” Nephro-urology Monthly, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Aromatherapy: does it help to relieve pain, depression, anxiety, and stress in community-dwelling older persons?” BioMed Research International, US National Library of Medicine.
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