Heart palpitations are sensations that feel like your heart is fluttering, skipping a beat, racing or pounding. Palpitations are felt in your neck, chest or throat. They are usually not serious; however, they may create some anxiety--which actually aggravates the problem. It is only when palpitations indicate an abnormal heart rhythm that they are a symptom of a more serious condition, such as heart disease, low potassium or an abnormality in one of the heart valves.
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Normal Heart Rate
According to the National Institute of Health’s MedlinePlus, normal heart rate is 60 to 100 times per minute. The heart rate of a person who engages in regular physical activity may drop lower than 55 beats per minute. A heart rate faster than 100 beats per minute is a condition known as tachycardia. An occasional extra heartbeat is known as a extrasystole, or ectopic heartbeat, which is also a characteristic of heart palpitations.
Exercise and Palpitations
Palpitations seldom occur during exercise. They usually occur before and after physical activity, according to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. As the heart rate increases during exercise, extra heartbeats or palpitations go away. After exercise, adrenaline levels remain high for a period of time as the heart rate slows down. Palpitations or extra heartbeats return during this period, sometimes at an increased rate and frequency.
Exercise Can Help
Exercise can actually help the problem by relieving stress--another contributing factor to palpitations--and keeping the heart in good condition. Changing up the types of activity you do to see if there is a change in frequency and occurrence of your heart palpitations may help you identify “trigger” activities you should probably modify or stop altogether.
Notify Your Doctor
If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, you should notify your doctor if you begin experiencing heart palpitations. Also tell your doctor if there has been a sudden change in palpitation rhythm or frequency, your pulse is higher than 100 beats per minute with no anxiety, exercise or fever, or you frequently feel extra heartbeats coming at more than six per minute. It may also help to document the time, type and duration of the palpitations and how you felt when they occurred. This will help your doctor determine if there are any underlying causes.
When to Call 911
If your palpitations are accompanied by dizziness, light-headedness, shortness of breath, confusion, chest discomfort, faintness or passing out, you should immediately call 911. These are symptoms of potentially life-threatening conditions such as heart valve disease, heart attack, heart failure and stroke.