What Causes Heart Palpitations and Shortness of Breath?

The symptoms of heart palpitations and shortness of breath may occur together in some medical conditions. These conditions usually require urgent medical attention. Heart palpitations can be defined as noticeable heartbeats. People often describe heart palpitations as "my heart wanted to jump out of my chest". This alarming symptom can also be harmless. The medical term for shortness of breath is dyspnea. Dyspnea can be due to any number of medical conditions. The treatments depend largely on the causes of the symptoms. Below are some reasons behind the two symptoms.

Possible Causes of Heart Palpitations and Shortness of Breath

When the two symptoms occur together, there are a few possibilities of which medical condition it could be:

1. Coronary Artery Disease

This condition occurs when there is a plaque build-up in the arteries feeding the heart. This leads to a restricted blood flow to the heart, which means that there is less oxygen and nutrients for the heart muscle. The other typical accompanying symptoms of coronary artery disease are chest pain (angina), rapid heartbeat, nausea and sweating. The chest pain may be triggered by eating a big meal, upon exertion, excitement or stress or if exposed to cold climate conditions.

Treatments: Once you're positively diagnosed, you will be advised to change your lifestyle and be prescribed medication. If your coronary artery disease more severe, you may be advised to have surgical intervention.

2. Arrhythmias

A normal, healthy heart works in a specific rhythm. If there are aberrations in this rhythm, you need to see your doctor. Other symptoms of arrhythmias are dizziness, fainting, fatigue, and discomfort in the chest.

Treatments: Your doctor may prescribe medication or surgery, depending on the severity, to correct it. The latter option may include an implanted cardioverter defibrillator which will control the heart rhythm.

3. Heart Failure

This medical condition is defined as a heart that is not working as efficiently as it should. Blood is pumped throughout the body at a slower rate. This, in turn, leads to other complications in organs that are not getting enough oxygen and nutrients. It can occur in response to a heart attack or other underlying medical conditions that further burdens the heart, like diabetes, kidney disease or hypertension. In addition to heart palpitations and shortness of breath, the other symptoms of heart failure are cough that produces a white sputum, dizziness, nausea, chest pains, extreme fatigue and sudden weight gain.

Treatments: Your doctor will prescribe heart failure medications for you or perform surgery to prevent further damage and improve the function of your heart.

4. Atrial Fibrillation

This medical condition is a type of heart arrhythmia. It can increase your risk of heart disease or stroke.The other symptoms that can occur with this condition are: lack of energy, discomfort in the chest area, light headedness, etc.

Treatments: Your doctor may prescribe medication and or surgery, depending on the severity.

5. Heart Valve Disease

The valves in your heart are important for directing blood flow in the correct direction and not seeping backwards. When one or more of these valves are faulty, it puts a strain on the heart muscle. Other symptoms are experiencing dizziness, pressure in the chest, etc. If the condition leads to heart failure, then the person may experience a sudden weight gain with ankle or abdominal swelling.

Treatments: After a positive diagnosis, you may be prescribed medications to minimize your symptoms and prevent further damage to the valve(s).

Non-Cardiac Reasons for Heart Palpitations and Shortness of Breath

1. Panic Attacks

If your palpitations occur together with feelings of anxiety and stress, then you may be experiencing a panic attack. Other symptoms that may occur are excessive sweating, nausea, body tremors, etc. These attacks are not life-threatening and psychological help together with medication, in some cases, can help you overcome these episodes.

Treatments: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is usually used by psychologists to address panic attacks. You are encouraged to identify your triggers which may be in the form of beliefs or negative thoughts. Together with the help of the therapist you can replace these negative triggers with more positive and realistic beliefs. There are special breathing techniques to help you remain calm whilst in the throes of the panic attack.You may be encouraged to join a support group to share experiences and tips with other sufferers.If CBT is not fully successful at helping you control your panic attacks, your therapist may prescribe some antidepressants. You may be prescribed one that regulates the levels of serotonin in your brain, thus minimizing the chances of a panic attack.

2. Medicines

Some medications can cause heart palpitations as a side effect. Some examples of this type of medicines are some used for asthma and thyroid disorders.

Treatments: It is best to get the advice of your doctor if you suspect your medication is triggering your palpitations. You may be prescribed another type of medication with less effect on the heart. Do not stop your medication without the supervision of your medical practitioner.

3. Gynecological Reasons

Pregnancy, menopause and menstruation may cause heart palpitations due to the hormones that fluctuate. The palpitations are usually short-lived and will stop once the hormone levels normalize.

Treatments: If you are still concerned, see your health care professional for a positive diagnosis or for hormone therapy to minimize the hormonal effects on the heart.

4. Unhealthy Lifestyle Factors

Some people find that high levels of stress, excessive levels of caffeine, smoking, alcohol intake or recreational drugs may trigger their heart palpitations and shortness of breath.

Treatments: If you suspect that your lifestyle choices are causing your palpitations, avoid the trigger, exercise more and learn some relaxation techniques.

5. Other Medical Conditions

Elevated fever, low blood pressure, anemia, low blood sugar levels or an overactive thyroid can lead to heart palpitations.

Treatments: See your doctor to get the correct diagnosis and treatment for your medical condition. This should stop your heart palpitations.

 
 
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