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The Most Common Causes of Heart Palpitations

You finish climbing several flights of stairs and your heart feels like it’s going to burst out of your chest. It’s a perfectly natural feeling, given the effort. However, ongoing heart palpitations that occur during unexpected moments could be the sign of something more serious.

To help you make sense of your heart palpitations, cardiologist Dr. James Kim and our team thought we’d pull together a primer about the rhythm of your heart.

Understanding your heartbeat and palpitations

Each day, your heart beats about 100,000 times as it circulates oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood throughout your body. This extraordinary number only becomes more impressive if you consider that a heart will beat about 2.5 billion times over the course of an average human lifespan. 

To accomplish this amazing job, your heart maintains a specific rhythm, typically beating 60-100 times per minute. Any fluctuation in this rhythm can become noticeable in the form of heart palpitations, which can present themselves as:

Technically, a heart palpitation is an awareness of your heartbeat, so the symptoms may deviate from this list and be specific to you.

Common causes of heart palpitations

There are many reasons why you may experience heart palpitations and, thankfully, most of them are only situational and aren’t serious.

Take, for example, our earlier example of climbing stairs, which can make your heart work harder. This is perfectly normal and corrects itself after a few minutes.

There are also some temporary causes of heart palpitations such as drinking caffeine, experiencing a fright, or stress. As with exercise, these heart palpitations tend to be short-lived.

If you’re experiencing heart palpitations for reasons that are both unknown and fairly regular, they could be a sign of something more significant, such as:

The best way to determine whether your heart palpitations may be cause for concern is to come see us for an evaluation.

Evaluating your heart palpitations

To identify whether your heart palpitations may require medical attention, we administer a few important diagnostic tests, namely an electrocardiogram, which measures the electrical impulses in your heart, or an echocardiogram, which evaluates the size and structure of your heart.

If these tests prove inconclusive, we may recommend outfitting you with a Holter monitor, which records your heart’s activity for up to 48 hours.

Once we evaluate the function of your heart through testing, we can determine whether the problem requires treatment or the palpitations are harmless.

If you want answers for your heart palpitations, please contact one of our offices in National City or Chula Vista, California, to set up an appointment.

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