Heart palpitations can be characterized as a racing heart beat that can be felt in the chest or neck. They can also be felt as skipped beats, beats that are faster or harder than usual, or a fluttering in the chest. They can occur at rest or during activity, while sitting or standing. There are many things that can cause palpitations. A sodium deficiency, although rare, can be one of those triggers.
Heart palpitations are typically harmless and usually resolve on their own. According to the Mayo Clinic, they can be caused by stress, anxiety, strenuous exercise, cold and asthma medicines, pregnancy or an underlying medical condition. Nicotine and caffeine can also trigger them, as can electrolyte imbalances such as potassium and sodium.
Sodium, like potassium, calcium and magnesium, is an electrolyte. Electrolytes are essential for the normal functioning of the body. The levels of any of the electrolytes can at any time become too high or too low. The levels are affected most often when the water level in the body is changed. A deficiency in sodium can result in heart palpitations. Sodium deficiency is most often a result of a loss of fluids thru vomiting, diarrhea or excessive sweating.
The American Dietetic Association recommends that you consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Consuming this much usually is not a problem because sodium is present in so many of the foods you consume. In fact, most people exceed this daily recommendation. Normal functioning kidneys will help flush the system of the excess sodium. However, continuous excessive consumption of salt can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
Sodium is present in many of the foods you eat, including cheese, buttermilk, canned foods, ham, bacon, lunch meats, ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressings, frozen fish, soups, frozen dinners and salted snacks. This compounded with the use of table salt can lead to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. It is therefore extremely important to monitor your sodium intake to avoid an excess or a deficiency.
Heart palpitations as a result of sodium deficiency are easily treated with supplementing your intake with sodium water, usually given intravenously. Heart palpitations are generally not serious; however, there is some risk of complications. These include fainting, stroke, heart failure and heart attack. Seek medical attention if your palpitations occur with fainting, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort. You should also do so if they are happening more frequently, have become more noticeable or become bothersome.