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Uneasy Feeling in Your Chest? Heart Palpitations and What You Should Know – Richmond University Medical Center

November 4, 2022
Closeup of man clutching chest with red overlayed to indicate area of pain

The heart is one of the body’s most essential organs. By pumping blood, it sends oxygen and nutrients throughout the body and carries away unwanted carbon dioxide and waste materials. That is why any chest pain or discomfort in the chest should not be ignored. One possibility when experiencing discomfort in the chest is heart palpitations. While these are usually harmless, it’s important to know what they feel like so you can rule out something more serious. The cardiology physicians and specialists at Richmond University Medical Center in Staten Island, New York, are equipped to handle all cardiac conditions. Here, we go over what heart palpitations feel like and when there should be cause for concern.

What Do Heart Palpitations Feel Like?

Heart palpitations may sound scary but are typically not a cause for too much concern. Symptoms can include:

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Pounding in the chest
  • Heart skipping beats
  • Flip-flopping
  • Heart fluttering rapidly

While any complication involving the heart can be concerning, heart palpitations generally are not caused by a larger, more serious issue. In most cases, stress or anxiety are likely the culprits. Patients may even experience them due to drinking too much caffeine or alcohol. They can occasionally develop during pregnancy, and certain medications, such as diet pills, asthma inhalers, and herbal supplements, can be other non-heart-related causes.

While they are mostly felt in the chest, patients may also feel palpitations in the throat or neck. An increase in activity, like exercise, may create a higher risk for heart palpitations, but they can also occur while resting.

When to Worry About Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations tend to come and go, but on rare occasions, this condition can be a sign of a more serious heart condition, like an irregular heartbeat (also known as arrhythmia). Patients should seek medical attention if they are experiencing any of the following:

  • Palpitations become more frequent or worsen
  • Discomfort in the chest
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting

It is also a good idea to speak to a medical professional if the patient experiencing palpitations has a history of heart disease. Possible complications for those with an underlying heart condition include stroke, cardiac arrest, and heart failure. While these situations are rare, those who are unsure about the cause of the palpitations should speak to their physician or seek emergency cardiac care if necessary.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The simplest way to approach heart palpitations is by starting with a physical examination. Cardiovascular care physicians will use a stethoscope to listen for anything abnormal and look for signs of other medical conditions that may be causing the palpitations.

In addition to the physical exam, your physician may want to run some tests. These can include an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), which is a simple, pain-free test that measures the electrical activity of the heart. A more involved test is Holter monitoring, which is a portable ECG the patient wears for a day or more. This helps medical professionals get a better idea of the heart rate and rhythm throughout a typical day. Event recording and echocardiograms are other potential testing options if more information is needed.

Unless the palpitations are caused by a heart condition, they rarely require treatment. Instead, physicians generally recommend taking steps to avoid the triggers that cause them in the first place. But in cases when palpitations are caused by a heart condition, such as an arrhythmia, treatment will focus on correcting the condition.

Seek Medical Attention for Heart Conditions

Discomfort in the chest is nothing to be ignored. Fortunately, heart palpitations are common and are not usually a cause for concern. Still, it’s important to discuss any discomfort with a physician to rule out other issues and underlying causes. Patients who are worried about potentially serious heart issues or those looking to get a professional opinion should turn to the knowledgeable and friendly staff at Richmond University Medical Center in Staten Island, New York. Our team of board-certified cardiovascular physicians is available to help patients navigate a wide range of different heart conditions. For questions regarding heart palpitations or any other heart conditions, contact us today.