Are heart palpitations dangerous?

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Are heart palpitations dangerous?

Posted By Anthony Komaroff, M.D. On July 26, 2016 @ In Anxiety and Depression,Heart Health | Comments Disabled


I often experience heart palpitations — almost every time I’m excited, angry or scared. Is this dangerous to my health?

brain and heart design, vector
brain and heart design, vector


The word “palpitations” is used differently by different people. To me, palpitations are simply an awareness of your heart beating. People aren’t usually aware of their heart beating. But when it beats unusually forcefully, irregularly or rapidly, you notice the heartbeat.

Most people feel their heart beating forcefully and rapidly during intensive exercise. But people who have never experienced heart palpitations at rest may not realize how frightening they can be. Certain conditions can make a person’s heart feel as if it is pounding, skipping or racing so fast that it will explode from their chest.

Palpitations during exercise occur because of a rush of adrenaline that courses through your body. This causes your heart to beat more forcefully and rapidly than usual. Adrenaline surges can also be generated by a strong emotion such as excitement, fear or anger. They can also come on after consuming a stimulant such as caffeine.

Another common source of palpitations is premature contraction of the atria, the heart’s upper chambers. Sometimes these chambers pump a fraction of a second earlier than they should. Then they rest an instant longer afterward to get back to their usual rhythm. This feels like a skipped beat. It is often followed by a forceful contraction as the ventricles clear out the extra blood they accumulated during the pause. These premature beats are almost always harmless.

The sensation of abnormal heartbeat can be a warning sign of a heart rhythm problem. Some of these heart rhythm problems are of no consequence. But others, unfortunately, can be very serious: They may lead to stroke, and even sudden death.

So, you should ask your doctor to check out your palpitations, particularly if they have become more frequent or severe in recent months. And if you’ve been having other symptoms, such as shortness of breath or chest pain, it’s even more important to get checked out.

Assuming the doctor does not find anything serious behind your palpitations, you should feel reassured. But if you’re still bothered by unexplained palpitations, some simple changes may reduce both their frequency and intensity.

Low blood sugar can trigger palpitations, so make a point of eating regularly. Drinking plenty of fluids and getting enough sleep may also help. Stress and anxiety are a source of palpitations in many people. If that is the case for you, breathing exercises, meditation or other relaxation techniques may do the trick. Nicotine can cause palpitations. So can alcohol and certain over-the-counter decongestant medications.

When self-care measures aren’t enough, certain drugs may help prevent palpitations. Beta blockers that quell the effects of adrenaline on the heart can successfully combat many types of fast heart rhythms. Some people may get relief with anti-anxiety medicines.

Heart palpitations will usually turn out to be nothing serious and easy to fix. But sometimes the cause of the palpitations can be a serious condition. Don’t try to guess whether it’s serious; let your doctor make that decision.

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4 Replies to “Are heart palpitations dangerous?”

  1. Palpitations are sensations that are caused by blood clots as they migrate through the heart (thrombodextrocardia).

    First, migrating blood clots (venous thromboembolism / VTE) in the tricuspid valve cause fast fluttering jugular palpitation in the neck, as they obstruct the tricuspid valve, which causes reverse pulsations of blood upwards into the jugular veins (pulsus reversus).

    Next, VTE at the pulmonary valve cause slow flip-flop pounding palpitations that are felt inside the chest as the heart skips a beat (pulsus interruptus).

    Last, clots (VTE) accumulate inside the pulmonary artery, which pulsate against the esophagus. Esophageal irritation from blood clots in the pulmonary artery causes nausea with burping, which sometimes leads to gagging and vomiting.

    Clots are common and everyone gets them. Small clots are benign, while bigger clots are worrisome because they cause skipped heartbeats. Consecutive skipped heartbeats lead to fainting spells, anoxic convulsions, and sudden unexpected cardiac arrest, which is serious.

    Arrhythmias and palpitations are misunderstood and poorly explained.

    However, a new theory called thrombodextrocardia teaches that VTE, migrating blood clots, causes arrhythmias and palpitations. This discovery is being organized for publication.

    It takes time for new theories to be reviewed and accepted, so please contact your personal physician for evaluation and treatment of palpitations and arrhythmias.

    Thank you for your interest in thrombophysiology and take time to see the Gestalt as you learn more about blood clots, heart valves, and mysterious palpitations that occur naturally as blood clots pass heart valves.

  2. I had occasional palpitations and even went to the ER first time it happened. Had monitor ekg the works all showed normal. That was 20 years ago. Lived with them (once every two weeks or so). Then I started getting them weekly, then daily, then hourly. I read where a magnesium deficiency could cause this. I have ALWAYS taken a multi-vitamin, but about a year ago I switched from my forever regular one to an organic natural food blend vitamin. I noticed my previous vitamin had about 100 mg of magnesium and the new vitamin had 0 mg. Daily recommended amount is about 400 mg. I started supplementing with 300 mg of magnesium daily and nothing. I upped the dose to 800 mg and after 3 days all symptoms disappeared. I have since decreased back down to 400 mg and remain symptom free.

    1. Thanks for your comment about magnesium intake and palpitations.

      Associations may or may not be linked in cause and effect relationships.

      Palpitations change from day to day, and from time to time.

      One patient with a sore sciatic nerve from the hip to the knee complained to me that she developed palpitations when she went to bed, and her pulse oximetry showed an elevated carboxyhemoglobin of 13% in the toes of her sore right leg.

      Does elevated CO in the blood cause sciatica and palpitations?

      Palpitations have associations with poor circulation that beg for an explanation.

      Carboxyhemoglobin (SpCO) is a circulating pH biomarker that identifies hemoacidosis caused by anaerobic metabolism.

      When someone who has floating loose blood clots in the legs goes to bed, the clots migrate into the heart where they cause palpitations by interfering with blood flow through the tricuspid or pulmonary valves.

      Tricuspid valve clots cause fast fluttering palpitations with jugular venous pulsations (pulsus reversus), while pulmonary valve clots cause flip-flop palpitations with skipped heartbeats (pulsus interruptus) and a slow strong pulse.

      Thanks for sharing your experience and remember to get 8 hours of sleep or rest at night; and drink enough water to prevent dehydration, which increases coagulation.

  3. There may be a very simple cause and cure.

    I went to emergency at least 5 times to get the shot. I tried vitamins, minerals, hydration, everything. Then, by chance, I read an article by Dr. Mercola on microwave ovens. The ovens have gotten very powerful, but the cheap Chinese doors leak radiation all over the kitchen. People with pacemakers are warned about this, but not guys like us. And it makes sense. If those stray microwaves can damage a pacemaker, they can damage the sensitive circuits in the heart.

    So, whenever I use the microwave oven, I run to another room to put a wall between me and the oven door. Or better yet, I hardly ever use it. Since then, my palpitations have diminished and by now have all but vanished.

    I want everyone who has this condition to know about this. Please pass it on.
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