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    Palpitations may feel like your heart is fluttering, pounding, skipping beats, beating faster than normal, or doing flips in your chest. Sometimes the palpitations are felt in your chest, but they may be felt in your neck or throat. Suddenly, the muscle you forgot was there becomes very noticeable and concerning. Read >>
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Health and Fitness News

Understanding Palpitations

Why is your heart beating irregularly?

The heart beats an average of 60 to 100 times per minute. If your heart beats 80 times a minute, that’s 4,800 times an hour, 115,200 times a day, and more than 42 million in a year. Despite this, the heart is a muscle we often take for granted. As we go about our daily lives, it consistently beats without us even thinking about it. Until it doesn’t beat like normal. Then we notice it and can’t stop thinking about it.

Palpitations may feel like your heart is fluttering, pounding, skipping beats, beating faster than normal, or doing flips in your chest. Sometimes the palpitations are felt in your chest, but they may be felt in your neck or throat. Suddenly, the muscle you forgot was there becomes very noticeable and concerning.

In most cases, palpitations are nothing to worry about. Other times they warrant a trip to the doctor for further testing. Sometimes, there’s no known reason why the heart decides to act abnormally. Other times, abnormal beats can be traced to a few common causes.

Cause 1: Anxiety

You’re stressed and feel anxious. Maybe you just had a fight with your son, the bills are piling up, or you’re worried about getting laid off from your job. Anxiety can do strange things to your health, and one of them includes messing with your heart rate. When your adrenaline is pumping, it tells your heart to step up its game. The result may be a racing pulse or skipped beats. Many people experience palpitations during a panic attack. At these times, relax and do some deep-breathing exercises. Take deep breaths in through your nose and exhale slowly through your nose.

Cause 2: Illness

When you’ve got a cold, flu, or fever, don’t be surprised when your heart starts racing. When your body is fighting an infection, it signals the heart to beat faster to trigger the immune system to return the body to its normal state. Regain normal health and your heart should get back on beat.

Cause 3: Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant drug that increases production of adrenaline. More adrenaline means faster heart rate and possible palpitations. Though most adults can handle a moderate amount of caffeine each day (400 milligrams or four cups of coffee), others are more sensitive to its effects and notice palpitations even with small amounts. Cold medications, nicotine, and illegal stimulant drugs such as amphetamines or cocaine can also affect the heart. Cut the caffeine and your heart may fall back into its normal rhythm.

Cause 4: Lack of Sleep

Sleep gives your heart and body much-needed rest. If you’re skimping on Zs, your body may start running on adrenaline. This hormone can speed your heart rate and cause palpitations. Make it your goal to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night, and see your doctor if you deal with insomnia or other sleep issues.

Cause 5: Hormones

A woman with palpitations may be able to trace them to hormonal fluctuations. Certain times of the month, during pregnancy, or before the start of menopause, women are more likely to notice heart rhythm changes. Pregnant women with palpitations should be tested for anemia.

Cause 6: Health Conditions

In some cases, an abnormal heartbeat may be the result of health problems unrelated to the heart. An overactive or underactive thyroid gland can affect heart rate, as can anemia, low blood sugar, low blood pressure, abnormal electrolyte levels, or dehydration.

Additionally, certain medications can cause irregular heart rhythms. These include inhalers for asthma, herbal supplements, diet pills, decongestants, or medications used to treat osteoporosis, allergies, thyroid imbalances, ADHD, or heart problems. Should you begin experiencing irregular heart rhythms soon after beginning a new medication, discuss the issue with your physician.

Cause 7: Foods

Did you eat a big meal before your palpitations started? Monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium, sugar, fat, carbs, or nitrates have been known to cause irregular heartbeats. Eat healthily, avoid trigger foods, and enjoy a heart that stays in time, beat after beat, even when you eat.