Palpitations: what they are, the causes and what to do

Sometimes it happens that in a slightly more complex period we happen to have palpitations. Also known as cardiopalmo, they correspond to a sensation of abnormal heartbeat of the patient, not necessarily linked to the presence of heart disease. Sometimes they are perceptions or linked to a period of high stress.

Symptoms of palpitations

Symptoms of palpitations include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Wheezing
  • Chest, neck or throat pain
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Dizziness

The causes of palpitations

The most common causes of palpitations can be related to:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Fever
  • Very intense physical activity
  • Drug use
  • Smoke
  • Hormonal causes (for example, menopause or pregnancy)
  • Caffeine intake

In some cases, heartbeat can result from thyroid dysfunction or heart disease, such as altered blood pressure or arrhythmias, characterized by irregular heartbeats (too slow or too fast).

In addition, it is possible to record the presence of palpitations after meals, especially in the case of foods that require a more intense digestive process. In some cases it is good to avoid particularly salty foods.

Sometimes, however, these occur at night. They can be due to digestive difficulties, as well as to the causes mentioned above, or to an increase in heart rate (tachycardia).

What to do in case of palpitations

Especially if they continue, in case of palpitations it is good to contact your doctor who, after a careful medical history, may decide to prescribe more detailed tests to investigate the health of the heart. Between these:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): detects the electrical impulses generated by the beat through sensors applied on the chest, in order to identify anomalies that could explain the appearance of palpitations.
  • Cardiac holter (or dynamic electrocardiogram) requires the application of electrodes to the chest connected to a portable device that monitors the functioning of the heart for 24–72 hours.
  • The event recorder, on the other hand, is the recording of the electrocardiographic trace that controls the heart rhythm through the implantation of a small battery-operated device. The examination is prescribed when the arrhythmias are not constant, but discontinuous (for example, they appear only once a week).
  • Echocardiography uses ultrasound to understand if the heart has abnormalities affecting the ventricles or valves.
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If the palpitations are also linked to cardiovascular diseases, drug therapy could be used.

It is also necessary to try to reduce stress levels and caffeine use.

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