Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Do heart palpitations when startled indicate a heart problem?"
This has been going on for years and I normally ignore this problem. I always chalk it up to anxiety, and but now, I wonder if I have an underlying heart.
Heart palpitations occur when the heart beats with a great enough force that it can be felt in the chest wall. There are many reasons for a person to have heart palpitations, and all of them should be evaluated by a physician. You mentioned anxiety as a possible cause of your palpitations and that is certainly possible. Anxiety and to a greater extent panic attacks cause one's heart rate to rise which in turn causes the heart to beat harder resulting in palpitations. The second possibility a heart arrhythmia. Abnormal heart rhythms can result in the heart beating faster with the feeling of palpitations. This is the possibility that you need ruled out with your doctor. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she will ask you a series of questions pertaining to the nature of your palpitations including how long they have been going on, how long they last, etc. Your doctor will likely also perform an EKG and potentially an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart). Depending on his or her overall impression, you might get a referral to a cardiologist, or treatment for the underlying cause (such as anxiety or panic attacks) if the heart itself is not thought to be the problem. Good luck!
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