Most of the time the beating of our hearts goes un noticed, it’s just something we don’t think about and we basically take it for granted, until, there it is a sudden pounding in your chest, maybe in your neck or even your stomach but what happened? Why are we suddenly able to feel our heart beat and is it normal?
When it’s normal
If you have felt your heart beat and started to panic, relax, while heart problems may instantly come to mind, there are also a number of normal reasons why your heart may be having palpitations. Sometimes the cause of your strong heartbeat may never be found, if it is found its usually not severe or life threatening.
- Extra activity or exercise– while this may be an obvious cause to those who are used to exercise, if you are new to the game or simply don’t exercise enough then this pounding of your heart can be an unexpected effect. Exercise or any activity that pushes your physically is going to get that heart rate up and your going to feel that beating in your chest. This is a normal response to exercise and should subside within a few minutes.
- Emotional stress– stress and anxiety are a huge cause for feeling your heart pounding. When we are stressed or anxious our body releases hormones into our body (like cortisol). When these hormones are released we will notice a number of symptoms appear including a faster breathing rate, sweating, nausea and an increased heart rate. Feeling your heartbeat at times of stress or anxiety is a completely normal response due to our body’s primal instincts of getting us ready to fight or flight.
- Pregnancy– when you are pregnant your heart needs to increase blood flow to support both yourself and your new bundle of joy. This increase of blood can result in a faster and stronger heart rate and should subside once your baby is in your arms.
- Caffeine- caffeine and other stimulants can all make you more aware of your heart beat due to their (duh) stimulating effect. This is a normal reaction and once the stimulant wears off your heart rate will return to normal.
- Fever- when we are sick and have a fever our heart needs to work harder, this means our heart beat will be more noticeable to us as it will be stronger than usual.
When it’s not
Sometimes heart palpitations can be caused by an abnormal heart rhythm and can be life threatening if not treated by a medical professional. An abnormal heart rhythm can be caused by:
- Heart disease
- Abnormal heart valves
- Abnormal blood level of potassium
- Low level of oxygen in your blood
- Over active thyroid
- Certain medications
Call your DR right away if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Your pulse is more than 100 beats per minute (without exercise, anxiety or stimulants)
- You often feel extra heartbeats (6 or more per minute or coming in groups of3 or more)
- You have new or different heart palpitations
- You have risk factors for heart disease (high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure)
Call 000 if you have:
- Loss of alertness
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual sweating
- Dizziness or light-headedness
As you can see there are many different reasons for a racing heart, so before spinning yourself into a frenzy check to see if it’s a normal reaction to emotion, exercise or stims and check out your other symptoms (if any). For the most part you will be fine but if in doubt check in with your Doc.