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Are Heart Palpitations Life-Threatening?

Are Heart Palpitations Life-Threatening?

We’re going to begin this discussion with a couple of important points: A heart palpitation is an awareness of your heartbeat, and most everyone experiences heart palpitations at some point.

From racing up a flight of stairs to drinking a caffeinated beverage, many everyday activities can lead to heart palpitations. That said, there are times when these symptoms may signal something more serious, and even dangerous, which is why we’re focusing on this subject here.

To help you better understand whether your heart palpitations are cause for concern, Dr. Van H. De Bruyn and our team of heart health experts here at Heart Rhythm Associates pulled together the following.

The different types of heart palpitations

As we mentioned, a heart palpitation occurs when you’re aware of your heartbeat, and this can occur under fairly benign and normal circumstances, such as exerting yourself. For example, when you come in from a morning run or after you climb some stairs, you may feel your heart pound because of the effort.

More concerning to us are those heart palpitations that occur frequently, which can present as:

If you experience these symptoms on a regular basis, for no obvious reason, they could very well be related to the health of your heart.

Potential causes of heart palpitations

If you’re experiencing ongoing issues with an irregular heartbeat, they could be signaling a problem with your heart’s rhythm, or an arrhythmia. There are several different types of arrhythmias, which can lead to:

There are non-heart-related palpitations that can occur with regularity, such as those that are the result of anxiety or panic attacks. In other words, these ongoing heart palpitations are not usually dangerous and don’t forewarn of a problem with your heart.

But if your heart palpitations are the result of an arrhythmia, it’s very much worth having us explore the extent of the problem and whether there are any potential threats, such as heart attack.

Treating an arrhythmia 

To identify whether you have an arrhythmia, we review your medical history and run a few tests, including an echocardiogram and/or an electrocardiogram. If we find that you have an arrhythmia, we determine the extent of the problem and whether it poses any risks.

In some cases, we can manage the problem with close monitoring, especially if we find that your heart isn’t in any immediate danger.

But if we feel that your arrhythmia is potentially serious, we may recommend medications (such as blood thinners), an ablation procedure, or an implantable device to regulate your heart’s rhythm.

When heart palpitations are life-threatening

If you experience sudden heart palpitations that are severe, they can signal a potentially life-threatening situation, such as a heart attack or a ventricular fibrillation. In these cases, call 911 immediately.

Outside of the emergent situations we outlined above, if you’re experiencing regular heart palpitations, we urge you to come see us for a full evaluation. To get started, contact our office in Little Rock, Arkansas, to get started.

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