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Heart palpitations. Information about occasional heart palpitations in a healthy person?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2001
Answered : 14964 Questions
My Cousin experiences "heart palpitations". She gets little help from her doctors. Can you tell me, generally speaking, something about occasional heart palpitations to a 70 year old female who is in excellent health otherwse?
Posted Tue, 2 Oct 2012 in Hypertension and Heart Disease
Answered by Dr. Michelle Gibson James 4 hours later

Palpitations are abnormal heart beats( it may be beating too fast or too slow).
It can occur in a number of different scenarios such as: (1) anemia (low red cell mass) - the red cells contain hemoglobin which contains the oxygen that is needed by the different parts of the body to function.If someone has low red cell mass/anemia then there is a reduction in oxygen transport , as a result the heart works a little harder to supply the tissues, so it may occasionally beat a little faster. There are different types and causes of anemia and treatment varies according to the type that is identified.
(2)thyroid disease- the thyroid hormone is very important in the body's metabolism.If there is excess of thyroid hormones then palpitations occur
(3)arrhymthmias due to heart disease- these are irregular heart rhymths.Normally when the heart beats, it receives an electrical current from a certain point of the heart which then spreads to the rest of the heart in a certain order. In some persons at least one of these pathways may be disordered for some reason- the current may arise from a different place,the rate of the current may be changed, it may take the wrong path, one of the paths may be blocked etc
There are different types of arrhymthmias and each has a different treatment .
Diagnosis is made with an ECG and if the palpitations do not occur at the time the ECG is taken then a HOLTER ,which is a 24hr ECG can be done.
Some arrhymthmias are not associated with any other symptoms but palpitations.
(4) anxiety - this can also palpitations but is a diagnosis of exclusion- all other conditions must be ruled out first

Normal investigations should include a full blood count to check for anemia, thyroid function tests and ECG.As stated earlier the ECG may be followed by a holter and in some persons an echo.

I hope this information is helpful to you and your cousin, feel free to ask any other questions
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