That instantaneous fluttering in the chest, pounding sensation, or peculiar irregular beating of the heart is what we call heart palpitations. Palpitations are the number one complaint of patients who visit the cardiologist or primary health care provider.
Experts estimate that 16% of patients visiting their doctor report palpitations.
So, is the rapid pulsation or fluttery feeling in the chest making you worry? Here we have all the answers you need. This is a detailed analysis of what chest fluttering means for your health. Including the top causes that you should know about.
What Are Heart Palpitations?
People develop palpitations in a number of different ways. Some have a fluttering in the chest; others feel pounding or irregular beating. These abnormalities can affect the chest, throat, or neck. In certain cases, when a person lies down, they can feel ringing in their ears.
When there is a fluttering in the chest, the heartbeat doesn’t feel right.
These sensations usually last a couple of seconds. But, sometimes, they could last minutes to well over a few hours. These palpitations are not necessarily serious but could be a sign of a health problem that requires medical attention.
What Could Cause the Fluttering in the Chest?
The possible causes are many. Often, palpitations are either connected to the heart or other non-cardiac triggers. When the causes are not heart-related, they include:
- Extensive physical activity;
- Health complications, like decreased blood sugar, unstable blood pressure, thyroid complication, dehydration, fever, or anemia;
- Overuse of alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, or illegal substances;
- Hormonal fluctuations due to pregnancy or menopause;
- Medications such as those for an underactive thyroid, diet pills, inhalers, decongestants;
- Unstable electrolyte levels;
- Specific nutritional or herbal supplements that the body can’t tolerate.
Other, least likely, but still possible, not heart-related causes include meals packed in fats, sugar, or carbs. It is not uncommon for people who eat high amounts of salt with their diet to experience the fluttery feeling in the chest.
If you do experience a palpitation after consuming a specific food, it might be because you have a food sensitivity. So, you should keep track of the foods your body can or can’t tolerate. At other times, the palpitations stem from a heart condition.
They are associated with an unstable heart rhythm or arrhythmia. In cases such as these, the chest fluttering could be a sign of a health problem. A patient can develop palpitations with:
- Coronary artery disease;
- Enlarged heart (cardiomyopathy);
- Structural heart complications from the birth;
- Ventricular tachycardia.
Sometimes the fluttering in the chest might be a sign of heart attack or failure.
Do have in mind, however, that emotional stressors have a significant impact on heart palpitations. They can trigger fluttering and cause discomfort. Exposure to significant stress, depression, panic attacks, and lack of sleep can cause palpitations. Medical conditions like Paget’s and Parkinson’s can have the exact same outcome.
Are There Any Possible Complications?
The fluttery feeling in the chest is often harmless. But, it could be a sign of arrhythmia or a red flag for cardiac arrest. Arrhythmia is very common.
By 2030, in the United States, 12.1 million people will have atrial fibrillation, which is a typical type of arrhythmia.
While 13 per 10,000 people (61%) develop a cardiac arrest outside the hospital. For that reason, people who have heart palpitations can benefit from seeking medical advice.
Plus, when you have a very quick heartbeat paired with unstable blood pressure, you could faint.
If the heart palpitations are severe and last a very long time, they could be a possible indicator of heart failure.
So, it is a good idea to ask for a diagnosis.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you have a predisposition to heart complications, palpitations, or chest pain, you should consult with a doctor whenever the palpitations appear.
To diagnose the problem, the doctor will carry out a physical exam, ask about the symptoms and evaluate your medical history.
If necessary, you will need to do an ECG test to monitor your current heart state. In order to increase the chances to catch heart abnormalities, you should perform regular heart health monitoring. Thanks to modern-day technology you can now get remote heart monitoring devices and related apps to monitor your health on your own such as ECG Holter Patches. You can easily apply them, activate them, wear them for up to 7 days while continuing daily activities, easily transfer data to the doctor and receive further recommendations.
Not every patient will require treatment for the fluttery feeling in the chest. But, if they do, these treatments will vary based on the symptoms and what’s causing the problem.
The go-to treatments are medications, like antiarrhythmic drugs. Especially beta-blockers.
They are meant to lessen blood pressure and heart rate. Only an expert can suggest the ideal form of medication therapy.
Other than that, patients might have to get a medical procedure, such as catheter ablation surgery or electrical cardioversion. But, this is reserved for more complex cases. If the palpitations are recurrent and very prevalent, you will most likely need to wear a pacemaker. This is a permanent cardiac device capable of monitoring the heart rhythm.
The fluttering in the chest is known as heart palpitations. As you can see, many causes can stem from such a problem. Some of the most typical triggers include heart conditions, emotional factors, medication, medical complications, lifestyle factors, and hormonal fluctuations. Just don’t forget to consult with an expert if you have recurrent or regular palpitations. You might need to receive proper medical treatment to manage the symptoms.