What to Expect When You Have Heart Palpitations

Heart Palpitations

You may feel light-headed, dizzy or short of breath if you experience a racing heart. It can be painful to experience heart palpitations, especially when they occur frequently or during exercise. These symptoms are a sign that you should see a physician. 

Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and symptoms. Your doctor will also listen to your heart and check your blood pressure. You’ll need to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, and herbs that you are taking, as well any stress or other factors which may have triggered the palpitations. You should describe when the palpitations occur, how long they persist and what caused them (such as exercise or anxiety). The doctor will perform a physical examination and check your heart and lungs.

Changes in the electrical system of your heart are often responsible for palpitations. They can be caused by medication, stress, illness, or hormone changes during menopause or pregnancy. These heart rhythm disorders are common and do not usually cause serious health issues.

Most doctors will only recommend that you make some basic lifestyle adjustments to stop the palpitations. You can reduce or stop drinking caffeine and increase your hydration. You may be advised by your doctor to try relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai-chi or relaxation exercises.

You will be asked by your doctor if you suffer from any other illnesses or conditions. Your doctor may order blood tests to check if your thyroid gland is functioning properly. He or she might also order a chest x-ray to check for fluid in your lungs. This could indicate that your heart pumping function has been affected.

In more severe cases, your physician may prescribe medication to control the electrical signals that cause heartbeats to skip or speed up. These beta-blockers slow down the heartbeat and control the “beat now” signal that regulates the heart rhythm. Some cases may require a surgical procedure in order to control the electrical signals.

If you experience shortness of breath, lightheadedness, or fainting along with the palpitations, call 000 or have someone take you to an emergency room. These symptoms can indicate a serious heart or lung problem that requires immediate treatment.

Your doctor may refer you to a specialist cardiologist if your results are not satisfactory or if your symptoms are severe. These tests could include a cardio catheterization, treadmill testing or electrocardiograms at the hospital. They can also be portable monitors which record the heart rhythm outside of the hospital (ambulatory EKG, Holter monitor). These tests can provide valuable information on what’s causing your palpitations.