Diana I feel worried because I feel my heart fluttering and beating irregularly, and sometimes I can feel an extra or missed beat in my throat and neck. What causes this and should I be concerned? Angela Davies…York
Palpitations may seem alarming Angela, but in most cases are harmless and not a sign of heart problems. When you are over stimulated or nervous irregular heartbeats known as ‘ectopic beats’ are triggered by the hormone adrenaline. Stress, alcohol, caffeine, drugs and eating spicy foods can bring on palpitations. Occasional palpitations, anxiety and stress accompanied by nausea, sweating, and trembling may indicate a panic attack. Some medical conditions cause irregular heartbeats such as thyroid problems, anaemia, low blood pressure, low blood sugar levels and dehydration.
Regular tightness in the chest, dizziness and palpitations could indicate a heart rhythm problem (arrhythmia), such as atrial fibrillation or supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). Atrial fibrillation is a common heart rhythm problem in the over 55’s where the heart beats irregularly and faster than normal. It’s not usually life threatening, but uncomfortable and often needs treating.
Common triggers for an arrhythmia are viral illnesses, alcohol, tobacco, being overweight, changes in posture, exercise, drinks containing caffeine, and certain over-the-counter, prescribed and illegal recreational drugs. You risk developing an arrhythmia if your heart tissue is damaged because of an illness such as a heart attack or heart failure. Consult your GP who may recommend an electrocardiogram (ECG).