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"Are heart palpitations a serious condition?"

ZocdocAnswersAre heart palpitations a serious condition?


Sometimes my heart beats irregularly. It will speed up all of the sudden, whether I am sitting or standing. Is this the sign of serious heart problems? Are strange heart patterns normal?


The palpitations you are feeling can be a sign of an irregular heart rhythm. Normally, the heart is controlled by one center of electricity that controls the contractions and relaxation of each of the four chambers of the heart. When the body is under stress (such as exercise), the heart rate compensates by increasing, but these beats stay regular. There is also a small amount of change in the heart rate that occurs with normal breathing (the heart speeds up with inspiration). With certain types of irregular heart rhythms, a separate focus of electricity takes over and controls the heart. Because a different pathway of electrical conduction is used, the regularity of the heart beat and contractions of the heart are altered, and the heart rate may vary from beat to beat. Sometimes this problem comes and goes, and sometimes it becomes permanent. Some rhythms can be controlled with medications, while others may require more advanced procedures (such as electrical cardioversion) to restore normal rhythm. You should seek out the help of your primary care physician. A physical exam can be performed, as well as an EKG and blood work (such as a thyroid hormone level). If no abnormalities are seen on an EKG, then a portable EKG (ie, a Holter monitor) can be used to help make the diagnosis of what type of heart rhythm you are experiencing.

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