However, heart palpitations also refer to missed or skipped beats.
(For the most part heart palpitations are harmless but it is very important to have any symptoms checked by a medical professional to rule out physical causes that
may be serious.)
The Causes of Heart Palpitations
Palpitations may be warning signs for heart disease, an over-active thyroid or due to certain prescription medications. Problems that require medical attention.
--- Call a doctor immediately if you experience palpitations along with chest pain, loss of consciousness or shortness of
Non-serious heart palpitations may occur due to external things we take such as: caffeine, nicotine and illegal drugs or may result from vigourous exercise. These are a direct result of
something we take or do, are usually less frequent and don't indicate anything serious.
The third catagory, whilst not serious in the sense of indicating physical illness, generally occur more frequently, involve both speeding heart and missed beats and reflect an underlying
problem that needs attention.
... These are heart palpitations caused by anxiety and panic.
The Effects of Anxiety and Panic
Every year in the United States and the UK tens of thousands of people visit hospital emergency wards fearing they are having a heart attack... only to discover they
were having an anxiety or panic attack. The strong, rapid heart beat genuinely made them fear the worst.
Why does our heart speed up so?
Anxiety and panic prepare us to deal with danger, either to fight or run away (the 'fight-or-flight' response). The heart beats faster to pump oxygen (fuel) more quickly to the major muscle
groups (arms, legs, chest) to provide them with an energy boost for fighting or fleeing. The greater the danger, the quicker we need energy to take action so the faster the heart
ANXIETY SYMPTOMS AND 'FIGHT OR FLEE'
Physical anxiety symptoms result from the body re-directing resources to the major
muscle groups (legs / arms / chest) to provide them with an energy boost to prepare
us for action (ultimately to fight or flee).
* Our breathing becomes more rapid to get more oxygen for these muscles into the blood.
* Our heartbeat speeds up to get the blood to the muscles quicker.
* Blood is diverted from the brain (making us light-headed and dizzy) and the stomach (causing 'butterflies').
* Energy cannot be wasted processing any half-digested food in our system so we need to get rid of it quickly - either through the mouth
(feelings of nausea) or the other end (wanting to go to the toilet).
* Other 'energy-wasting ' systems (unnecessary in time of danger) are shut down eg. saliva production, giving us a dry mouth and difficulty
* We sweat more to cool down all this energy production.
* The energy boost to the muscles makes them 'jumpy'/ 'jittery'/ 'jelly-like'/ on-edge ready for action.