Once in awhile, in my chest area, it feels like something is flip flopping around. Other times a boxer seems to be punching me from the inside out- jab jab cross.

Now, as physician I know these are palpitations but I still take notice of them as sometimes it happens several times a day.

Most women will feel these types of erratic ‘heart beats’ at one point in their lives- some more often than others. Luckily, for the most part, these palpitations are brief and otherwise without symptoms.

It makes you stop and take notice, but there is really no pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or weakness. In fact, as long as you don’t panic and add anxious fear and flight hormones to the mix, you can calmly make an appointment with your doctor to make sure there are no underlying reasons for these sensations.

The most common causes of palpitations are as follows:

1. Taking in too much stimulants

Common examples would be caffeine, sugar, alcohol or stress. Watch out for the Red Bulls and Monster drinks.

2. Not getting enough sleep

The body and the heart need the regular shutdown that sleep provides.

3. Sinus arrhythmia

This is a brief NORMAL pause in heart rate from breathing but some folks are able to sense it.

4. Hormone changes  

We are talking about pregnancy, the perimenopausal period, the menopausal period and the postmenopausal period. What they all have in common is the wide fluctuation in the regular hormonal levels.

Other hormonal causes of irregular or fast heart beats would be disorders of the thyroid or the parathyroid glands.

5. Medications

Highly implicated would be herbals. You may not classify your herbals and supplements as medications but they are. Some antibiotics also have the side effect of palpitations.

6. Low blood count (otherwise known as anemia).

The heart is being made to do more with less blood and this stress could lead to errant heart beats (palpitations).

7. Electrolyte imbalance or vitamin deficiency

Implicated here would be any illness or condition that causes excessive vomiting or diarrhoea like the stomach flu or food poisoning.

Weight loss surgery by the virtue of having a smaller area for nutrient absorption is also a common cause of electrolyte imbalance and vitamin deficiency.

8. Cardiovascular disease

Problems with the electrical side of the heart lead to palpitations. Problems with the mechanical side of the heart like leaky or stiff heart valves causing heart murmurs could also cause the irregular heart beats.

9. Diabetes

Palpitations are not as common with the run-of-the-mill diabetes. Diabetic emergencies like diabetic ketoacidosis or diabetic coma do cause electrolyte imbalances which could then lead to irregular heart beats.

10. Anxiety Disorder; also known as panic disorder

Part of the fight and flight response is an increase in the heart rate.

And the list goes on and on… But just remember, most causes are benign and totally reversible. Consult your physician to look into the cause and seek treatment as needed.

Seek immediate care if the palpitations are long in duration (longer than 15 seconds) or if at any duration if it occurs with other symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, altered mental status, fainting or weakness.

About the author

Dr. Carol

Dr. Carol

Dr. Carol- doctor, wife, mom and maker PB&J!
One of my passions is to help people Embrace change, Try new things and be BOLD for a healthier and balanced life!

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