Heart palpitations are a pounding or racing feelings in your heart, and can be triggered by stress, exercise, medication or, rarely, an underlying medical condition. Attacks can last for a few seconds or hours, and may occur very infrequently, or more than daily.
You may feel skipped heart beats, pauses and/or extra beats, a flip-flopping sensation, or a flutter in your chest.
In addition you may also feel dizzy, light-headed, shortness of breath, or have chest pain along with the palpitations.
You can often prevent heart palpitations by avoiding the triggers that cause them.
Heart palpitations can be triggered by electrolyte imbalances, adrenaline, anemia, heart disease, arrhythmias, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), overexertion, adrenaline, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, cocaine, amphetamines, and other drugs, disease (such as hyperthyroidism and pheochromocytoma), and anxiety disorders.
There are more causes, but these are the most common.
A condition where a person feels that their heart is 'racing' or 'fluttering' after a meal.
This maybe felt immediately after a meal, or might even start while the person is eating.
This is a common complaint seen in overweight people, and sometimes in recovering anorexic patients.
Blood tests, particularly tests of thyroid gland function are also important baseline investigations (an over-active thyroid gland is a potential cause for palpitations; the treatment in that case is to treat the thyroid gland over-activity).
The next level of diagnostic testing is usually 24 hour (or longer) ECG monitoring, using a form of tape recorder (a bit like a Walkman) called a Holter monitor, which can record the ECG continuously during a 24-hour period.
If symptoms occur during monitoring it is a simple matter to examine the ECG recording and see what the cardiac rhythm was at the time.
Treatment often depends on the cause(s) of the palpitations, your symptoms, and other health problems you may have beside heart palpitations.
If your palpitations cause few symptoms and you are generally healthy, you may not need any treatment, but you may still need to make lifestyle changes, such as decreasing stress and avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine.
Because of a chance of heart disease it's always a good idea to see your doctor if you're experiencing new or ongoing heart palpitations.
Palpitations alongside other symptoms, including sweating, faintness, chest pain or dizziness, indicate irregular or poor heart function and should be investigated.