When Your Heart Skips a Beat
Do you know that feeling you get when you catch a glimpse of the love of your life? It’s like your heart stopped for a minute, like it forgot to beat. And if it happens once in a blue moon, it may sound so romantic!
But what if you started experiencing this unsettling feeling more often, even when you’re resting? What if you felt your heart skip a beat when you’re working out, or if you get palpitations with a racing heart in the middle of a meeting?
The idea that there could be problems with your heart’s timekeeper can be stressful. We’ve answered 5 of the most common questions asked about skipped heartbeats and what to expect when dealing with palpitations.
1. What does it mean when your heart skips a beat?
Usually, electricity moves through the heart in a very regular and controlled manner. Your heart beats at a standard rate, an average of 60-100 beats per minute at rest. This is because the cells of your heart muscles conduct the electrical impulses that stimulate the heart to contract and pump blood in a very regular and controlled manner. It’s usually precise and consistent. Each set of contraction and relaxation of the heart muscle is picked up as a heartbeat.
Sometimes, the electrical impulses may misfire, causing your heart to skip a beat or throw in an extra beat. This disturbance in the rhythm is responsible for the odd feeling in your chest - as your heart jumps or flip flops. We commonly associate these feelings with heart palpitations called ectopic heartbeats or premature heartbeats.
2. Is it normal for your heart to miss beats?
Despite the skipped or added beat, the heart continues to usually function normally. There are two main types of ectopic heartbeats:
- Premature atrial contractions (PAC), which originate in the upper chambers or atria.
- Premature ventricular contractions (PVC), which originate in the lower chambers or ventricles.An example of premature heartbeats
The causes of skipped beats could also be:
1. Lifestyle Factors
- Eating spicy foods or drinking too much caffeine and alcohol.
- Emotional triggers like stress or anxiety
- Sleep disturbances
2. Hormonal Factors
- Hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid
- Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels
- Pregnancy and menopause
2. Medical Conditions
- High fever
- Side effects of certain medications
- Arrhythmias or other heart conditions like enlargement of the heart muscles cause disturbances in electrical impulses' conductivity.
Do people experience heart palpitations after COVID 19?
The most common effect that the Covid 19 virus had on the heart was inflammation of the cardiac muscle or myocarditis. It usually resolves on its own as the infection dies down. But it can cause serious outcomes in some patients, like arrhythmias, heart failure, acute coronary syndrome and venous thromboembolism.
Lingering symptoms are seen in Covid “Long Haulers” after suffering from even a mild Covid infection. These include fatigue, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and heart palpitations.
A recent study showed that patients with Covid 19 often experienced increased heart rates, low energy and sleeping problems by using wearable devices and an app to track their symptoms.
According to data from Johns Hopkins, patients recovering from the coronavirus sometimes show symptoms of a condition known as POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). This nervous system problem affects heart rate and blood flow. People have complained about rapid heartbeats, palpitations, brain fog and lightheadedness when getting up from rest.
This may explain why some people experience heart palpitations after Covid. These symptoms could be due to a problem with the heart but could also be because they have just recovered from a severe illness, may be dehydrated, and have spent time resting and inactive.
3. What does it feel like when your heart skips a beat?
You may experience ectopic heartbeats in a variety of ways. You may feel like your heart missed a beat and then rebounded with a harder one and that it’s beating faster than usual or fluttering rapidly. This feeling can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.
People experience skipped heartbeats even when they are just standing, sitting, or sleeping, not only when moving or exercising.
4. When should you be worried about an irregular heartbeat?
When you notice that your heart misses a beat often, you may wonder, “Are skipped heartbeats dangerous?” In most cases, if felt on their own, they may not be anything to worry about. However, if they are accompanied by: the following symptoms then it may indicate a bigger problem
- chest pain or discomfort
- severe shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- dizziness and nausea
If you notice ectopic beats, try to analyse if they followed any triggers or if your heart rate also starts increasing during an episode. You may experience bouts of palpitations that last for long periods and do not improve but get progressively worse over time.
This could indicate heart disease, and you should bring it up with your doctor so that they can get to the root of the issue. They usually recommend an ECG, a 2D echo, a stress test or continuous monitoring with a Holter for 24 to 72 hours to detect heart palpitations that aren't found during a regular ECG exam.
5. Can you exercise with skipped beats?
Many people experience palpitations before and after exercise due to the fluctuations in adrenaline as you step up or decrease your pace or effort. However, further evaluation is advisable if these skipped beats are accompanied by difficulty breathing, chest discomfort, dizziness, blackouts, or loss of consciousness.
These can be worrying symptoms. How do you know if your heart is safe during exercise?
Continuous and real-time monitoring of your heart’s activity may be the answer!
*The information contained in this blog is provided on an as-is basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy or usefulness. The content in this blog is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content is meant for informational purposes only. This blog contains copyright material, the use of which has not been specifically authorised by the copyright owner.