Palpitations are a feeling like your heart is racing, pounding, or like you have missed heartbeats. It feels like your heart has skipped a beat or added an extra beat.You can feel palpitations in your chest, throat or neck. Heart palpitations usually don’t last long. They can last seconds or minutes or longer in some situations.
A palpitation describes the sensation that occurs when a patient feels an abnormality in the normal beat of the heart. Abnormalities in the electrical conducting system may cause the heart to beat too quickly, too slowly, or irregularly. Sometimes a palpitation may be a normal variant but it may also be caused by a significant problem that could be life threatening.
In most cases, heart palpitations are harmless and resolve on their own without treatment. But in other cases, heart palpitations may be an indication of a more serious underlying condition.
• An irregularity of the heartbeat as felt by the patient
• An isolated skipped beat or they may be frequent and recurrent
• A fluttering in their chest
• Fullness in their chest or throat
• Shortness of breath
• Low blood pressure if the heart rate is very fast
Possible causes of heart palpitations includes –
▪︎ Lifestyle triggers
• strenuous exercise
• excess caffeine or alcohol use
• nicotine from tobacco products such as cigarettes and cigars
• lack of sleep
▪︎ Drugs and medications
• over-the-counter (OTC) medications, including cold and cough medications, herbal supplements, and nutritional supplements
• prescription medications such as asthma inhalers and decongestants
• stimulants such as amphetamines and cocaine
▪︎ Heart conditions
Although heart palpitations can be harmless, they can also be an indication of an underlying heart condition, such as:
• arrhythmia, or an irregular heart rhythm
• abnormal heart valves
• heart disease
• congestive heart failure
▪︎ Other medical conditions
• hormone changes due to pregnancy or menopause
• overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism
• sleep apnea
• electrolyte abnormalities
• low levels of oxygen or carbon dioxide in the blood
• blood loss
• low blood sugar
For palpitations caused by a heart condition, possible complications may includes –
If the heart beats rapidly, blood pressure can drop, causing the person to faint. This is more likely in those with a heart problem, such as congenital heart disease or certain valve problems.
• Cardiac arrest.
Rarely, palpitations can be caused by life-threatening heartbeat problems and can cause the heart to stop beating effectively.
If palpitations are due to a condition in which the upper chambers of the heart quiver instead of beating properly (atrial fibrillation), blood can pool and cause clots to form. If a clot breaks loose, it can block a brain artery, causing a stroke.
• Heart failure.
Certain arrhythmias can reduce the heart’s pumping ability. Sometimes, controlling the rate of an arrhythmia that’s causing heart failure can improve the heart’s function.
To diagnose the real cause of your palpitations your doctor will –
• Give you a physical exam
• Take down your medical history
• Want to know about your current medications, diet, and lifestyle
• Ask for specifics about when, how often, and under what circumstances your palpitations occur
Sometimes, a blood test can help your doctor find the cause of your palpitations. Other useful tests include –
This can be done while you’re at rest or exercising. The latter is called a stress EKG. In both cases, the test records your heart’s electrical signals and can find unusual heart rhythms.
• Holter monitoring
You’ll wear a monitor on your chest. It continuously records your heart’s electrical signals for 24 to 48 hours. It can identify rhythm differences that weren’t picked up during an EKG.
• Event recording
You’ll wear a device on your chest and use a handheld gadget to record your heart’s electrical signals when symptoms occur.
• Chest X-ray
Your doctor will check for changes in your lungs that could come from heart problems. For example, if they find fluid in your lungs, it may come from heart failure.
This is an ultrasound of your heart. It provides detailed information about its structure and function.
If necessary, your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist for more tests or treatment.
Unless the palpitations are caused by a heart condition, heart palpitations rarely require treatment. Instead, a health care provider might recommend taking steps to avoid the triggers that cause palpitations.
If palpitations are caused by a heart condition, such as an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), treatment will focus on correcting the condition.
The most appropriate way to treat palpitations at home is to avoid the triggers that cause the symptoms.
• Reduce stress.
Try relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga or deep breathing.
• Avoid stimulants.
Caffeine, nicotine, some cold medicines and energy drinks can make the heart beat too fast or irregularly.
• Avoid illegal drugs.
Certain drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines, can cause heart palpitations.
Ayurvedic Perspective –
Incorrect food consumption and anxiety can lead to the vitiation rasa dhatus, which is the first tissue among seven Saptdhatus . Heart is the place of Rasa Dhatu. After digestion, rasa is formed. When rasa becomes vitiated, it can cause heart problems.
Ayurvedic treatment for palpitations depends upon the cause for Vaatakopa and any associated dosha present. If Vaata is vitiated due to obstruction in channels/Kapha is the associated vitiated dosha, first approach should be to remove the accumulated toxic metabolic waste (Aama) from the body.
It can be done by drying up and body-lightening therapies like:
• Lepanam with Rookshana dravyas over chest
• Mild fasting
Beneficial Herbs –
Ayurvedic medicine uses a variety of herbs to treat an Abnormal Heart Rhythm. These includes –
• Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna)
• Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
• Punarnava (Boerhavia diffusa)
• Shankhapushpi(Convolvulus pluricaulis)
• Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri)
• Pipal tvak (Ficus religiosa)
• Dalchini (Cinnamon tamala)
• Cardamom or elaichi (Elettaria cardamomum)
Commonly used Ayurvedic medicines
• Drakshadi kashayam
• Mridweekadi kashayam
• Dasamoolam kashayam
• Brihat Nayopayam kashayam
• Partharishtam or Arjunarishtam
• Siva gulika
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