You make my heart flutter…

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Palpitations. What are they? What do we mean when we say, “Palpitations?”

Usually, when physicians refer to palpitations, we are talking about feelings of your heart beating. This feeling is often a sensation that your heart is beating irregularly or “skipping beats.” The term can also mean a sensation of feeling your heart race – especially when you are not exercising or otherwise expecting an elevated heart rate.

Why does this happen?

Your heart has its own electrical system that regulates your heart rate and causes a beat about once each second. This system can have “short circuits” than cause the racing heart rates. Or, you can have occasional extra beats that are like twitches or “hiccups” in the electrical system that feel like irregular beats.

There are many reasons for palpitations occur. The root causes depend upon exactly what type of heart rhythm is causing the symptoms. In order to diagnose the abnormal heart rhythm, an ECG (electrocardiogram) recording of the symptoms is necessary. This recording often requires the patient to wear a monitor from between one day and one month, depending upon frequency of symptoms.

Once the exact diagnosis is made, further recommendations can be made regarding treatment options including medications, ablation of heart tissue or sometimes reassurance.

The skipped beats are also often related to stress – something most women cannot exactly remove from daily life. This stress can be physical (illness, fever, lack of sleep, dehydration, abnormal electrolytes or excessive caffeine) or mental. Working on reducing some of these stressors can frequently prevent or reduce palpitations.

If you are experiencing palpitations, talk with your physician. It is often your heart’s reminder to stop and take time to take care of yourself.