Palpitation —-is it heart attack or some other disease?
Most people tend to confuse palpitation and cardiac illness, which not only delays their diagnosis but also lead to many complications. Most people perceive heart attack as increase in heart rate that is accompanied with sweating; however this may be just palpitation because of hormonal imbalance. It is therefore important to discuss some important points that may help you in making up your mind and seeing the right specialist.
What is palpitation?
First of all, palpitation is a subjective feeling of hearing one’s own heart beat. Palpitation is not a disease; however it may be a symptom of a number of diseases that also includes heart but palpitation does not necessarily mean that person is suffering from heart disease. So, you don’t have to panic anymore.
What are the causes of palpitation?
Palpitation is caused by a number of systemic diseases, like:
Increase functioning of thyroid gland:
Palpitation due to thyroid related causes are associated with thyroid swelling, intolerance to heat, increased sweating, swelling around eyes, bulging of eye-balls and significant weight loss despite increased appetite.
Increase secretion of adrenal gland:
In addition to palpitation, other features of increased adrenal activity are high blood pressure, facial flushing, chest pain, nervousness, irritability and weight loss.
Excessive ingestion of caffeinated beverages or coffee:
Excessive ingestion of caffeine or other nerve stimulants: Caffeinated beverages increase the activity and excitability of cells and thus lead to increase in heart-rate.
Some psychiatric issues like panic disorder also presents in the early course by palpitation only. Psychiatric issues can be diagnosed with associated features like agitation, anger, mood disorders and disturbances of thought.
Some supplements taken by medical students, sportsmen and other people:
Supplements and stimulants taken to improve brain functioning and to stay up for long hours also cause palpitation. Moreover sleep deprivation for long hours also causes palpitations.
Family history with no gross abnormality of heart or any other organ:
Palpitation may be just present due to family history with no other abnormal underlying issues (as seen in some families where no cause can be identified and the heart rate is inherently higher than normal). Palpitation may be associated with unconsciousness, dizziness, nausea or weakness.
What you should do?
- If the problem is due to any other disease, other than that of heart then some other tests should also be performed to sort out the problem. Particularly tests of thyroid glands are to be performed because it has been studied that thyroid malfunctioning is the major cause for palpitations.
- Avoidance of sleep deprivation also helps the symptoms and so a regular sleep pattern must be maintained.
- In case of known history of palpitation, avoid consuming more than 2 cups of coffee or more than 200 mg of Caffeine (including all the sources of caffeine)
- Consult your primary care physician if your symptoms are not associated with sleep deprivation and caffeinated beverages and you are having other systemic issues too.
- A number of tests can be done to establish the diagnosis, but in many cases proper history taken is sufficient to establish diagnosis.