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Palpitations

What Are Palpitations?

Last updated on:
17/04/2013

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Palpitations are the awareness that your heart is beating forcefully, rapidly, or irregularly. There often is a feeling of "skipping beats" or "fluttering in the chest." They can occur in normal healthy people, as well as in people with heart problems.

Palpitations can be very frightening. But most palpitations do not indicate underlying heart disease. If you are having palpitations, there is a good chance that nothing is seriously wrong.

Normally, people do not notice their hearts beating. But palpitations are common in everyday life and can happen to anybody, regardless of whether the person has an underlying heart abnormality.

Usually, palpitations do not last long. They are more likely to happen as you get older, although young people can have them too. Often, the cause of palpitations cannot be determined.

A variety of painless tests are available to help your doctor determine whether or not you need medical treatment.

Nice To Know:

Irregularities of the heartbeat were recognized as early as the 1870s. Some years later, a German doctor invented the electrocardiograph, a device that records the electrical activity of the heart. With this tool, physicians determined that extra electrical impulses were the cause of extra heartbeats.

James Mackenzie (1848-1924) was a Scottish cardiologist who was first to identify the large number of irregularities in the heart's beating action. He established which irregularities were caused by serious disease and which were of no consequence. He is considered to be a pioneer of modern cardiac medicine.

Nice To Know:

Q: Every once in a while, I could swear that my heart actually skips a beat. Can this be harmful in the long run?

A: A feeling of skipped heartbeats is a very common description of palpitations. In most cases, it has nothing to do with how well your heart is performing. You are especially likely to notice skipped heartbeats if you are tired or have had too much caffeine or alcohol.

 
 

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.