Cardiovascular System – Heart Palpitations

Palpitations:Research states that heart palpitations are heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable.

The heart has its own pacemaker, which is known as the sinoatrial (SA node), in which it generates electric pulses to the heart stimulating it to beat.  A palpitation could be triggered by a surge of a hormone called adrenaline.  This is released when the body feels nervous, excited or if the body is overexerted.

Natural heart rhythm

The heart beat is triggered by an electrical impulse that starts in the sinus node.  The sinus node has the job of delivering an electrical impulse at the rate of 60-100 beats per minute.  This is known as the ‘sinus rhythm’.  At the start of a heart beat the electrical pulse starts at the top of the heart in the right atrium.   The Atrium contracts, pushing blood from the atria downwards, passing through the tricuspid valve, to the lower chambers of the heart, called the ventricles.  The ventricle (right side of the heart) then contracts, pushing blood through another valve which is called the pulmonary semilunar valve, into the pulmonary artery. The blood then goes on a journey to the lungs to receive oxygen.  When the blood is oxygenated it leaves the lungs via the pulmonary veins and then returns to the left atrium.  This contracts and forces the blood through another valve called the mitral valve and ends up in the left ventricle.  The left ventricle is an important part of the ‘cycle’ and is a big muscle pump and sends out the oxygenated blood to the body and its systems.  When the left ventricle contracts, it forces blood through another valve called the aortic semilunar, into the aorta (the main artery of the body).  From here the aorta and its three branches carries the blood to all the tissues of the body.  According to Boundless.com “The aorta is divided into three parts, the ascending aorta (points towards the head), the arch of the aorta (where it changes direction) and the descending aorta (points towards the feet).

When something happens to the body that interrupts the natural heartbeat rhythm, this can sometimes cause the heart to miss or add a heartbeat.  This is therefore known as a palpitation. Click here to find out how massage can help with circulation.

Different types of palpitations are:

PACs (premature atrial contraction) and PVCs (premature ventricular contraction) – these will often feel like a flop or thump in the chest area.   Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) – the upper part of the heart chamber beats to fast, can go up to 150 beats or more a minute.   Atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation – this is when the muscles cells think and act like a pacemaker and produce an electrical pulse themselves but only in the atrium.  Ventricular tachycardia (V Tach) – this is when there isn’t enough blood supply and the heart is irritated by this, which in turn produces an abnormal heart rhythm within the ventricle only.  Finally, the Ventricular fibrillation (V Fib) – this is when the ventricle fibrillates instead of beating, resulting in no blood being able to be pumped to the body by the heart.

Causes:  Abnormal levels in the body of potassium, calcium and magnesium can cause palpitations.  There are also all sorts of choices or general lifestyles that may trigger/cause a palpitation, these can be:

  • Eating rich, spicy foods
  • Caffeine – drinking too much
  • Smoking
  • Recreational drugs
  • Anxiety
  • Stress and panic
  • Some medication
  • Hormonal changes – periods, pregnancy and menopause
  • Medical conditions – over active thyroid, low blood sugar level, high fever and dehydration

Signs and Symptoms:

A lot of people will suffer from palpitations some time in their life.  Palpitations can feel like your heart is beating slightly faster than that of your normal rate or can feel like a flutter.  Sometimes it is reported to feel as if your heart is ‘skipping’ a beat and becoming irregular in its pattern.  Also it can be for just a few seconds or minutes that you feel the change in the rhythm.  Some people report that they can feel the heart beat in their neck or throat too.  You can be not active or active, laid down or stood when you can experience palpitations.  These ‘feelings’ are normal and most of the time they are not a sign of heart issues.  The only time that you should be concerned is if the palpitations are happening with other symptoms e.g. feeling tightness around the chest area and/or dizzy.

Atrial fibrillation – This is a heart rhythm disorder and can cause a stroke and can sometimes cause disability.  Atrial fibrillation makes the pulse to beat faster and becomes irregular and also can make the feeling of your heart fluttering.

Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) – This is nearly the same as atrial fibrillation as in the fact that is causes periods of faster heart beating, but the difference is that the heart rate doesn’t become irregular and will mainly stay firm. This heart disorder is usually meaningless and can disperse by itself.

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