Recently some questions about palpitations were posted. I'll answer them here since they can occur as a result of Coronary Artery Disease.

Palpitations are caused by an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat or abnormal heart rhythm). Symptoms may include dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath and chest discomfort. Some patients even feel their palpitations inside their head!

If you have palpitations you should see your doctor and you may need a variety of tests. Apart from  an EKG, blood tests that measure sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and thyroid hormone levels may be necessary. In some patients, an exercise treadmill test is used to detect arrhythmias that occur only with exertion.

Some patients may become dizzy or even loose consciousness during an episode when the arrhythmia causes the heart to pump less blood to your brain than is needed there. This condition may require study of the heart's electrical system to detect abnormal electrical pathways.

Fever or high thyroid hormone levels in your blood can cause palpitations but may only require treatment during the acute illness. If there is underlying heart disease such as coronary artery disease, a previous heart attack or heart valve problems, a heart operation may be necessary.

If a specific rhythm abnormality is detected, a variety of treatments is available. In others without heart disease no specific therapy may be necessary. Since emotional and physical stress may play a role here, stress reduction, quit smoking, and reduce caffeine and alcohol help.

What kinds of non-medical treatments have been effective for your palpitations?

One patient said:
"I just lay down to calm myself when I have palpitations. When it happens my heart beats really fast and I feel weak. It happens especially when I am nervous, or stressed. A good rest solves it all."

"Drinking less caffeine helped me a lot."

I look forward to your comments,

Dr T



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