Listen to your heart – it could be beating out a warning

13 February 2017

Valentine’s Day is approaching and love is in the air - but a heart beating faster than usual might be a sign of much more than just a romantic reaction!

Palpitations – an awareness of you heart beat – can be caused by a variety of things and the excitement of seeing a loved one can be one of them. But in some cases they can be associated with much more serious conditions.

Dr Jasper Trevelyan, a consultant cardiologist at Spire South Bank Hospital, explained: “You may feel your heart pounding, fluttering, beating irregularly or missing beats – often for just a few seconds or maybe minutes. These symptoms may seem alarming but in most cases they are quite harmless. In young people they are usually due to normal extra beats in the heart. Many factors, including stress and anxiety, can trigger these types of palpitations. Not smoking, and cutting down on alcohol and caffeine, can help to reduce them.

“More severe and prolonged palpitations, particularly as we age, can be due to abnormal heart rhythms. The commonest of these is atrial fibrillation. If you start to notice palpitations lasting for a longer time, sometimes hours, or if they make you feel unwell for example with dizziness, breathlessness or even passing out, it could be a more serious condition that needs to be investigated. Many abnormal heart rhythms occur only intermittently, which can mean making a diagnosis is more challenging.

“The first investigation for palpitations is an ECG – an electrical tracing of your heart. Often your doctor can do this. Other investigations include techniques to monitor your heart rhythm over longer periods; there are even devices that work with your smart phone these days.

“If you are concerned about palpitations, make an appointment to see your GP initially. If they feel there may be something significant going on, they may want to refer you for a more detailed assessment and investigations.”

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