Heart palpitations occur at night or during the day for the same reasons. These uncomfortable sensations send many people to the emergency room as they feel they are experiencing a heart attack.
Because most don’t know the underlying cause, the fear of impending doom sends many into anxiety or sheer panic.
What is a Heart Palpitation?
The word palpitation is used to describe unusual sensations that occur in the chest area. The term is used interchangeably to describe a racing heartbeat, a heart that is doing flip-flops, or the feeling that the heart is skipping beats.
The body feels these irregular beats because of the abnormal cardiac contractions or premature ventricular contractions.
According to Dr. Willie Ong, PVCs are caused by many things, and you can be diagnosed with palpitations or use the word to describe the sensation, which further adds to the confusion of the matter.
Palpitations can be intermittent with no rhyme or reason to their frequency. They might happen for an entire evening and subside by morning.
Unfortunately, some people suffer regular attacks and must learn to live with these uncomfortable sensations.
Dr. Stephen Sinatra says that even the foods you eat can cause heart flutters. While most are benign, and to be expected, some are a warning sign of a significant cardiac complication.
When Should I Worry About My Heart Palpitations?
In most cases, heart palpitations are normal and should be nothing to be concerned about. Most people have abnormal beats and don’t feel these abnormalities.
At night, it’s common to notice such sensations because it’s quiet and you’re in-tune with your body in the silence.
Even the healthiest person can have a few missed beats here or there. If you have never experienced these sensations before, it’s always best to have a medical doctor evaluate them the first time. Most physicians ask their patients to wear a Holter monitor.
A Halter monitor will record the heart’s activity to make sure something significant isn’t occurring. These little devices are worn for up to twenty-four hours or longer, depending on your needs.
The rule of thumb is if you have more than three palpitations in a row, or skipped beats, you should head to the emergency room.
While most of the time these events are benign, it can be an indication of cardiac arrest or another event.
If you are having palpitations that are associated with dizziness, neck or back pain, shortness of breath, or any numbness in the extremities, then you need to seek medical help as soon as possible. Sweating or headaches associated with these events are a cause for alarm.
What Causes Heart Palpitations?
Heart flutters or that feeling of “boom-boom-pause,” as Dr. John Mandrola describes it, can be caused by many things. In fact, there are more than 85 documented reasons why your heart might act or react abnormally.
It can be as simple as something you ate or drank or as serious as a heart attack. Here are the most common reasons for these palpitations:
The most significant cause of palpitations is anxiety. According to The Calm Clinic, When the body is under stress, it releases cortisol. Abnormal levels of cortisol can make the heart react uncharacteristically.
During anxiety attacks, the heart will often flutter, race out of control, or feel like it’s beating hard. Thankfully, these sensations caused by anxiety are one of the easiest conditions to treat.
2. Strenuous Exercise-Specifically Cardio
Any good workout gets the heart pumping, mainly cardio. When you are exercising, the heart must work harder to pump blood to the body.
Since this muscle must work vigorously after or during a workout, it’s not uncommon for it to skip a few beats or beat quicker than normal.
The palpitations should reside shortly after a workout is complete.
3. The Use of Nicotine
Many don’t realize that nicotine is a stimulant that works to give the body energy. Unfortunately, the heart also feels the effects of the acceleration. The electrical steering system distresses the heart and causes abnormal sensations.
Because of the severe effect of this drug, it can cause permanent damage to this vital muscle. Dr. Jennifer Brown warns e-cigarette users to beware.
Just because they are safer in the form of toxins doesn’t mean that they are heart-healthy. Nicotine is still a component that can have a great impact on the body.
4. Fever or Illness In The Body
Fevers are caused by a bacterial or viral infection within the body. Did you know that these illnesses can have a dramatic effect on the heart?
When the body is under attack, the heart will lag or “feel the pressure” from the disease.
Some viruses can do permanent damage to the muscle structures causing a condition known as myocarditis, which is inflammation and disease.
5. Overactive Thyroid
Few people truly understand how important the thyroid is to the body’s function. The thyroid regulates two significant hormones, t3 and t4.
When the thyroid is overactive, or a person has been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, the heart often beats fast, skips beats, and acts radicle.
Anemia is a condition where the body doesn’t have enough iron in the blood. Iron is an essential element for proper bodily function.
The lack of iron causes overwhelming fatigue, general malaise, and an upset stomach. It can also cause a rapid heartbeat and pains in the chest.
Remember that feeling when you pull a muscle during exercise? Well, the heart is a muscle that can become weak or damaged just like any other part of the body. Endocarditis is a condition that causes the lining of the heart to become severely inflamed.
The condition doesn’t originate in the heart, but the heart picks up the bacteria from the bloodstream. When palpitations are caused by Endocarditis, time is of the essence.
This serious condition can cause permanent damage to the valves and become a life-threatening illness. This is why it’s essential to have a new onset of abnormal beats evaluated.
8. Atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is a severe heart problem. It’s a condition in which the heart beats abnormally due to an electrical abnormality. The electrical system within the body is just as intricate as the one in your home.
Many people don’t realize they have A-fib because at first, this situation produces no symptoms. However, it quickly progresses into a life-altering problem that can cause cardiac arrest.
9. Aortic Valve Stenosis
The rapid, fluttering heartbeat caused by Aortic valve stenosis is nothing to mess around with. Stenosis simply means a narrowing of the valves of the heart.
Because the blood has a challenging time pumping through the narrow valves, palpitations become commonplaces.
Stenosis causes angina and requires surgery. It’s caused by high plaque content in the valves or damage.
10. Vitamin B12 deficiency
A vitamin B12 deficiency, or hypocobalaminemia, is a condition where the body is lacking one of the essential vitamins. Many symptoms can occur with a deficient vitamin B12 level, which includes heart flutters, depression, personality changes like irritability and even psychosis.
Since B12 is necessary for good health, having an insufficient amount can cause a lot of problems, including overwhelming fatigue.
Can Heart Palpitations Be Easily Treated?
Dr. Joel Kahn says that treating heart palpitations comes down to the underlying cause. In many instances, there is no known cause. The heart can misfire for so many reasons that if nothing shows up in tests, it’s considered normal.
Once a reason is established, the doctor will attempt to treat the underlying condition. Even if there is no documented reason, many people find relief when they use beta-blockers or other blood pressure medications.
For a thyroid problem, the introduction of a synthetic hormone can balance the t3 and t4 levels. When the culprit is anxiety, anti-anxiety medication or anti-depressant can help. For infections and l causes, antibiotics can eradicate the situation and prevent damage.
When the situation is dangerous, like a-fib, stenosis, or a heart attack, surgery is often required. A balloon valvuloplasty is conducted to open clogged valves by reducing the plaque build-up. According to the Texas Heart Institute, a stent will be placed in the reopened area to ensure it stays clear.
If a person has a-fib, a pacemaker is installed to keep the heart rhythms regular. A pacemaker can be used for many other heart problems when a severe electrical rhythm abnormality is discovered.
Should I Worry About My Heart Palpitations At Night?
If you are experiencing heart palpitations at night, and you have already been evaluated by a doctor, there are some things you can do to help the situation.
First, cold water seems to work wonders. Though there is no scientific research as to why this method benefits, but it does.
Relaxation techniques, which include deep breathing exercises can help too. This method seems to be suitable for those who suffer from chronic stress or anxiety.
According to The Cleveland Clinic, coughing resets the heart rhythm. In fact, some studies show that coughing can help you during a heart attack.
According to Dr. Joseph Marine, when dealing with palpitations, especially at night, take a deep breath and see if they pass.
If it was a one-time ordeal, you probably have nothing to worry about. However, if they continue and come in pairs, then you need to see a doctor.