More than likely, your heart has skipped a proverbial beat at some point in your life — this phenomenon is perfectly normal from time to time. However, if other symptoms accompany the sensation, a consult with a cardiac electrophysiologist may be necessary.
Here's are four potential reasons your heart skips a beat:
Non Heart-Related Medical Conditions
Certain medical conditions that, at first glance, have nothing to do with the heart might also be the culprit behind palpitations, including:
- Overactive thyroid
- Low blood sugar
Changes in hormone levels caused by pregnancy, menstruation, or perimenopause can also make your heart skip a beat, says the NHLBI. Fortunately, these palpitations tend to disappear over time.
Of course, there are times when palpitations are a result of heart issues. For instance, they can be a sign that a person has an irregular heartbeat called an arrhythmia.
This is not common, explains the NHLBI. Less than half of all people who experience heart palpitations do so because of an arrhythmia.
However, you might be at a higher risk for arrhythmia-related palpitations if you have:
- Heart attack — or are at risk for having a heart attack
- Coronary heart disease (CHD) — or are at risk for CHD
- Heart valve disease
- Heart muscle disease
- Heart failure
Problems in the Heart’s Upper or Lower Chambers
Another potential heart issue can occur when the heart’s upper chambers, or atria, can contract out of sync with the rest of the heart. This can cause that “heart-skips-a-beat” feeling, explains Harvard Health Publications. It’s usually nothing dangerous.
On the other hand, atrial fibrillation happens when your heart’s upper chambers contract rapidly and irregularly. Similar issues can happen in the lower chambers, also called ventricles. As Harvard Health Publications explains, people who experience either condition should be seen and treated by a physician. While a single out-of-sync contraction usually isn’t anything to worry about, repeated problems can turn fatal, Harvard Health Publications says.
When to See a Doctor for Palpitations
While most palpitations aren’t anything to worry about, when they occur with other symptoms, it’s time to seek medical attention. According to the NHLBI, these symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain, pressure, or tightness in the chest, jaw, or arms
- Unusual sweating
If your palpitations become more noticeable, let your doctor know — even if she has determined that they were harmless in the past, adds the NHLBI.
While many of the reasons behind your heart skipping a beat might be harmless, knowing the causes — and any risk factors you might have — can help you and your cardiologist determine the best course of action.
Karl Undesser, MD, is a cardiac electrophysiologist with West Valley Cardiology Services. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Undesser at his Caldwell, Meridian, or new Weiser location, call (208) 795-5073.