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Heart palpitations are when the heart’s regular rhythm is temporarily replaced by a fluttery feeling, irregular beating, or a feeling of very rapid or heavy pounding of the heart. Though these can be a bit scary, especially when felt for the first time, they are not usually harmful. If the palpitations are related to an underlying problem, however, there may be a connection between the palpitations and heart attack risk.
It is not always easy to determine if a fluttery feeling in the heart is s symptom of a more serious problem. Often, heart palpitations are caused by digestive problems, feelings of anxiety or stress, a fever, or vigorous exercise. Hormonal changes that occur naturally during pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause may also cause them. Different medications can lead to feelings of palpitations and heart attack, but do not necessarily increase the risk of serious complications.
People concerned about palpitations and heart attack potential might want to avoid some of the more common triggers for these strange-feeling heartbeats. Stimulants such as caffeine and pseudoephedrine may cause palpitations. Nicotine is often a trigger as well, as is an asthma inhaler containing any kind of a stimulant. Before making any changes to a prescribed medication it is important to check with a physician first.
To determine if there is a connection between palpitations and heart attack, there are some signs to watch for that may signal a problem. Fainting can mean that there is a serious drop in blood pressure related to the palpitations. When a person faints from an irregular heartbeat, he or she should be checked by a physician for signs of heart damage or a congenital heart problem.
Significant arrhythmias may be difficult for the average person to identify. These may be either a very slow heartbeat, known as bradycardia, or a very rapid heartbeat, called tachycardia. Another condition, atrial fibrillation, occurs when the heart beats irregularly and ineffectively. In most cases telling the difference between palpitations and heart attack when faced with such symptoms should be left up to a doctor.
Ultimately, identifying which beats signal palpitations and heart attack is difficult. The main difference between palpitations and heart attack triggers is that during palpitations the heart still moves blood effectively. If the irregular beats are related to an underlying heart problem, blood is not being pumped properly. When in doubt, it is always best to check with a doctor immediately to make sure what feels like a palpitation is not the onset of a heart attack or other serious heart problem.