Palpitations describes the feeling that your heart is racing, pounding, skipping, fluttering or jumping inside your chest. This complaint is usually given in the context of the person being at rest, laying down or otherwise not doing anything to provoke them. Some people also report palpitations after minimal exercise. One interesting thing about palpitations is that people who complain about them do so because they’ve become aware of their heart’s activity. The feeling of one’s own heart beating can cause discomfort and anxiety. For some patients, it can be quite debilitating and have a major impact on quality of life. Palpitations are usually interpreted by otherwise healthy patients as malignant because most people cannot feel their heart’s beating.
Palpitations can appear to be fast or out of sync, with a regular or irregular beating. They can be accompanied by shortness of breath, or nothing at all. Palpitations are a very common medical issue.
In general terms, palpitations are an unreliable sign of a medical problem because most of the time what the person is feeling is normal heart activity. What most people don’t know is that normal heart activity is not perfect. It often involves periods of slow or fast heartbeats, occasional extra beats, and irregularity in the way the heart is beating due to primary breathing patterns. The worry is that what they represent is an arrhythmia, but this is usually not the case. Palpitations should be evaluated by a trained medical professional starting with a careful interview that includes details about your symptoms and your complete medical history. Depending on your history, the evaluation can expand to include an electrocardiogram (EKG), blood work to examine your thyroid function, an echocardiogram or a wearable heart monitor.
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