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Irregular Heartbeat FAQs

Experiencing an irregular heartbeat is not uncommon, especially if you are in a life phase that is associated with hormonal change, such as the menopause transition. The best way of coping with an irregular heartbeat is to make sure you have as much knowledge as possible. Continue reading to learn the answers to some frequently asked questions about irregular heartbeats.

What Is an Irregular Heartbeat?

Irregular heartbeat

An irregular heartbeat is the feeling of pounding or fluttering in the chest, or of the heart beating at over 100 beats per minute. This feeling can last for just several seconds, or it may take a few minutes to draw to an end. The medical name given to an accelerated, irregular heartbeat is tachycardia, whereas any irregularity in the pace of the beat is referred to as arrhythmia.

What Causes an Irregular Heartbeat?

An irregular heartbeat can be caused by a number of factors. Lifestyle choices, such as consuming too much caffeine or alcohol, can cause an irregular heartbeat. In addition, smoking or the use of certain illegal drugs can heighten your risk of developing troublesome heart conditions. Stress and anxiety can induce an immediate bout of tachycardia. Finally, all these risk factors can become even more significant for women going through a stage of hormonal imbalance, such as pregnancy or menopause.

What Are the Symptoms of an Irregular Heartbeat?

There are various symptoms of an irregular heartbeat, and you may suffer one or all of them, or anything in between. The common symptoms of an irregular heartbeat are:

Symptoms of an irregular heartbeat
  • Experiencing anxiousness or panic
  • Flushing
  • A racing heart
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Pounding in the throat or chest
  • Heart flutters
  • Skipped heartbeats
  • Extra heartbeats

What Risks Can an Irregular Heartbeat Present?

An irregular heartbeat rarely presents any risk in itself, but it is often the sign of other underlying conditions, only some of which may be life-threatening. In addition to hormonal imbalance, other conditions that may bring episodes of irregular heartbeats are heart disease, an overactive thyroid, or anemia. Low blood pressure and dehydration can also lead you to experience an irregular heartbeat, although in such cases, it is rare for the symptom to become a constant issue.

When Should I Seek Medical Attention?

Visit your doctor

Though experiencing an irregular heartbeat is not typically an immediate cause for concern, you should nevertheless seek medical attention if the symptoms of tachycardia begin to appear on a regular basis. You should also consult a medical practitioner if you experience an irregular heartbeat alongside dizziness or the sensation of "tightness" around the chest or right arm. If you have any other worries or concerns about your symptoms of irregular heartbeat, then you should see your doctor.

Experiencing an irregular heartbeat can be distressing, but it is usually harmless. Being familiar with the risks of an irregular heartbeat and being able to keep an eye out for the causes and symptoms will help you to deal with episodes of an irregular heartbeat when it happens.

How to Control an Irregular Heartbeat

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Sources:
  • Lee, J.O. et al. (2011). The Relationship between Menopausal Symptoms and Heart Rate Variability in Middle Aged Women. Korean Journal of Family Medicine, 32(5), 299-305. doi: 10.4082/kjfm.2011.32.5.299
  • National Health Service UK. (2014). Heart palpitations. Retrieved February 23, 2016, from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Heart-palpitations/Pages/Introduction.aspx
  • National Health Service UK. (2015). Heart Rhythm Problems. Retrieved February 23, 2016, from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Healthyhearts/Pages/Arrhythmias.aspx