Many people have an irregular heartbeat at some point in their lives. It could happen for many reasons. Most of the time, it isn't a cause for concern. But there are red flags that you should talk with your doctor about if you have them.
What to Look For
Heart palpitations are unusual patterns in the rhythm or beating of your heart. You might feel them in your chest, throat, or neck. It might seem like your heart is racing, pounding, fluttering or flopping, or like your heart is offbeat or skipping beats.
You might notice these palpitations when you’re sitting, lying down, or during certain physical activities, like an intense workout.
Lots of things can trigger these types of heartbeats, including:
Palpitations are very common. They're usually harmless and often go away on their own. But see your doctor if:
- Your symptoms keep you from sleeping, or they affect your quality of life.
- Your palpitations change.
- You get them frequently.
- Your symptoms don’t get better, or get worse, with treatment.
- You feel extra heartbeats.
- Your pulse stays over 100 beats a minute when you're at rest.
- You have a family history of heart problems.
- You have a condition that makes heart disease more likely, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
Also call if new symptoms pop up with your palpitations, like:
How to Get Ready for Your Visit
When you set up the appointment, ask the nurse if there's anything you should do to prepare, such as fasting for 24 hours before you come in. You might also want to bring a close friend or family member along with you to take notes and help you remember important details.
Start a heart diary to keep track of your palpitations. Write down:
- When they happen
- How long they last
- The sensations you feel
- What you were doing when they started
Bring the diary to your appointment so you and your doctor can discuss it.
You might also want to write a list of questions to ask your doctor while you’re there, such as:
- What could cause your symptoms?
- How could this relate to other health issues?
- Which tests or treatments do they think will work best?
- Should you see a specialist?
Make sure to bring a list of all the medications you take, including supplements. It's possible that you take things that could cause your palpitations, including certain:
What to Expect
The first thing your doctor will probably do is ask you a series of questions designed to help them figure out what you're feeling. They'll also want to know any important details about your health history and family background.
You might also get a physical exam, along with a few tests that might help them figure out what's causing your palpitations. Those tests can include a stress test and an electrocardiogram (EKG), a test that records the electrical activity of your heart.
Your doctor might suggest that you wear a device that tracks your heart activity, sometimes called a Holter or event monitor. They may also ask you to track any changes in what you feel.
They'll probably suggest ways you can ease your symptoms, and they'll want you to set follow-up appointments over the following few weeks to check on you and see if you’re making progress.