A “fluttering” heart is a condition that most people have experienced at some time or another. Usually called “palpitations,” they are rapid, forceful, regular or irregular heartbeats that are quite noticeable to the individual. Some of the terms used to describe palpitations are “pounding,” “fluttering,” and “skipping.”
While they can be a cause of concern to people who experience them, palpitations are usually not a sign of an impending heart attack. For most people who are physically healthy and emotionally well-adjusted, they do not signify an underlying heart disorder but are most commonly caused by physical exertion, anxiety, fear, excessive smoking, too much caffeine, and ingredients in certain medications, including some cough and cold medications.
Other causes are fever, anemia and hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland, which produces too much thyroid hormone). In rare cases, palpitations are a long-standing accompaniment to an underlying severe anxiety disorder.
Palpitations can also be caused by actual heart disease. These forms are often distinguishable by their particular pattern. For instance, some palpitations may be very heavy and regular; others may feel as if the heart is “turning over.” A Health Alliance cardiologist may be able to make a diagnosis based on the pattern, or may order an electrocardiogram for more precise information.
As a rule, palpitations produce anxiety and fear out of proportion to their seriousness, although it is wise to consult a cardiologist if the condition develops, or if symptoms such as faintness, sweating, or chest pain occurs with the palpitations. When the cause has been accurately determined and its significance explained, most people are able to “live with” the condition and some no longer even notice it.
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