Understanding When Heart Palpitations Become Problematic

November 03, 2020

 Songwriters have used phrases like “skipped a beat,” “racing,” “pounding,” and “fluttering” to describe the effect that love has on the heart. These are the same words doctors could use to describe potentially worrisome heart palpitations.

Palpitations are usually harmless. Exercise, stress, medication, or even caffeine can provoke palpitations. If they happen frequently or last for longer periods, it could be an indicator of a more serious heart condition like an irregular heartbeat, an overactive thyroid, or heart disease

 

What You’re Feeling

Section 1

Palpitations feel just like they’re described in love songs, but if you’ve never had one before, it could be alarming. Your heart may feel like it’s:

•    Skipping beats
•    Fluttering rapidly
•    Beating too fast
•    Pounding
•    Throbbing

The feelings aren’t always limited to the heart. Some people have reported feeling palpitations elsewhere in the chest or their neck. They have also been reported as a general sense of unease. Palpitations can appear suddenly and disappear just as quickly. Potential triggers include:

•    Anxiety
•    Dehydration
•    Low potassium
•    Low blood sugar
•    Too much alcohol
•    Fever

 

Risks for a Racing Heart

Section 3

Everyone has the potential for heart palpitations. There’s a good chance you’ve felt them yourself. There are some risk factors, however, that can contribute to developing palpitations. They include:

•    Being highly stressed
•    Having an anxiety disorder
•    Regular panic attacks
•    Being pregnant
•    Taking cold or asthma medicines containing stimulants
•    An overactive thyroid
•    Being anemic
•    Having heart problems
 

When to See a Doctor

Section 5

Most palpitations happen infrequently and last just a few seconds. Take note of when they happen because there might be a triggering event, and that could be worth mentioning at your next checkup. Seek medical attention if there is a family history of heart disease, if palpitations happen with increasing frequency, or become more forceful. Get emergency help if the palpitations include:

•    Chest pain
•    Fainting
•    Severe shortness of breath
•    Severe dizziness

The heart palpitations could be a sign of anemia, an overactive thyroid gland, or an irregular heartbeat, also called an arrhythmia.


Types of Arrhythmia

Arrhythmia is classified by the type of heartbeat and where they occur. If you go to your regular doctor, you may be referred to a specialist, called a cardiologist, who may send you home with a device to monitor your heart rate. You could have to use the monitor for just a few days, but in some cases, you may need to use or wear it for over a month. The doctor monitors your heart and then uses that information to tell if the arrhythmia is one of the following:

•    Atrial fibrillation — This is the most common type of arrhythmia. The result can be an erratic heartbeat that interferes with blood flow. It could lead to serious clotting conditions or stroke. There may be no symptoms, or chest pain, palpitations, and shortness of breath.
•    Supraventricular tachycardia — A rapid heart rate above the lower heart chambers. Symptoms include an overly fast pulse and dizziness.
•    Ventricular tachycardia — This rapid heartbeat starts in the lower heart chambers. It can cause a loss of consciousness and sometimes cardiac arrest and sudden death when associated with heart disease.

 

Dealing with Palpitations

Section 6

Palpitations typically aren’t a cause for concern. They can still be bothersome, but there are some simple ways to deal with them.

•    Don’t smoke and quit if you do.
•    Cut back on alcohol or quit altogether.
•    Eat regularly as low blood sugar can be a cause.
•    Eat nutrient-rich foods
•    Drink plenty of fluids.
•    Get enough sleep.
•    Ask your doctor or pharmacist to check your medications.
•    Try meditation, yoga, tai chi, or other stress-relieving activities.
•    Do deep breathing exercises.


We’re Here for You

Section 6

AltaMed can help with health screenings to check for high blood pressure and cholesterol and to make sure your thyroid is working and your iron levels are where they need to be. If you have any concerns about your heart, or any other part of your body, we can answer those questions and get you the care you need. 

You can find a doctor at the following link or make an appointment by calling (888) 499-9303.


 

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The Nine Things You Need to Know to Keep Your Heart Healthy

February 01, 2019

You probably already know Valentine’s Day is coming up, but did you know February is Heart Health Month? So, instead of candy, we’re giving you these bite-sized tips to help you show your heart some love.


1.    Heart Disease Runs in Families.


AltaMed Latino family in group shot smiling
 
To some degree, heart disease is thought to be ‘hereditary’ or ‘genetic:’ that is, it can be passed from one generation to another through the genes. However, having the genes for it doesn’t mean you are absolutely certain to develop heart disease: it just means you’re more at risk.

 

2.    But There’s a Lot You Can Do to Prevent It.


AltaMed middle age Hispanic man running on treadmill

 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that about 80% of all heart disease deaths could have been prevented by following steps like eating a healthy diet, exercising, quitting smoking, and having regular health screenings.


3.    All Fats Aren’t Created Equal. 


AltaMed half avocado on wooden table
 
Most of us have been trained to believe that all fats are bad. However, some sources of fat are actually good for you and may reduce your risk for heart disease. 

  • Unsaturated fats are the good kind of fat, and they’re found in foods like avocados, nuts like almonds and walnuts, olive and canola oils, fish, and more. Enjoy in moderation. 
  • Then there are saturated fats (found in whole milk products, red meat, skin-on chicken, among others) which should be limited to occasional eating; and trans fats, which should be avoided when possible as they increase both your cholesterol level and heart disease risk. They’re found in processed foods like fries, cakes and cookies, microwave popcorn, and frozen pizza.


4.    Your Belly Could Tell You Your Risk. 


AltaMed chubby man sitting on couch with burger fries and beer
 
If you have a lot of fat around your middle or belly, compared to your hips, you may be more likely to have heart disease (think being apple-shaped rather than pear-shaped.) One recent study found that women who carried their fat around their middles were twice as likely to have heart problems, including heart attacks. Fortunately, losing even a little weight can make a difference for your heart.


5.    Petting Puppies is Good for You. 


AltaMed golden retriever dog smiling and getting pet by owner
 
Science can’t say for sure that stress causes heart disease, but stress leads to the factors that can put you at risk for heart disease or make your health worse (such as high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcers, to name a few). Whatever you can do to manage your stress is good, and doctors agree that having a pet, and even just stroking an animal, can help. In fact, one study showed that dog owners who’d had heart attacks or heart problems had better health outcomes than those who didn’t have pets.


6.    There’s a Connection Between Your Teeth and Your Heart Health.


AltaMed woman smiling putting toothpaste on yellow toothbrush
 
A good oral hygiene routine is important for your overall health and well-being, not to mention your confidence. Not brushing and flossing can lead to bacteria, inflammation, and plaque, which has been linked to heart attacks.
  


7.    The Warning Signs of a Heart Attack. 


AltaMed man grabbing heart like he is having chest pains
 
Heart attack symptoms can vary from person to person, but the signs usually include:

  • Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms 
  • Nausea, indigestion, heartburn, or abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Fatigue
  • Sudden lightheadedness or dizziness


8.    One Heart Attack Leads to Another. 


AltaMed person in hospital bed
 
Those who’ve had heart attacks are four times more likely to suffer a fatal cardiac event, compared to those who haven’t. 


9.    You Can Get Your Numbers Checked at No Cost. 


AltaMed two female doctors and one male doctor
 
Getting your blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol numbers checked are all considered essential health benefits and therefore, your medical plan will cover a trip to the doctor at no charge to you. 
 

 

Anxiety Disorders: Know the Different Types and Symptoms

July 27, 2020

The past few months have been challenging. As a result, many of us, including children, parents, and seniors, are experiencing feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.

Occasional anxiety over recent events, on top of additional personal stress, is normal. However, the feelings of anxiety caused by an anxiety disorder, do not go away and can worsen over time. These feelings of anxiety can interfere with your daily life and may be difficult to control.

Knowing the difference between normal fears or worries and anxiety disorders is important and can help you recognize them and seek treatment.

 

Different Types of Anxiety Disorders

Worried manEach type of anxiety disorder has its own unique symptoms:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

A person with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) has frequent or constant feelings of worry and anxiety about issues, such as health, work, social interactions, or everyday situations. These feelings can cause problems in areas of your life such as school, work, and social interactions. In some cases, people with GAD have experienced these feelings since childhood or adolescence, while in other cases, they may have been triggered by temporary stress.

Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling irritable
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Tense muscles
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep

Panic Disorder

Panic attacks are periods of intense fear that can occur suddenly. Over time, they can be triggered by certain situations. A person with panic disorder has repeated and unexpected panic attacks, and often worries about when the next attack will happen.

During a panic attack, some people may experience:

  • Feelings of impending doom
  • Feelings of being out of control
  • Heart palpitations, a pounding heartbeat, or an accelerated heart rate
  • Sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, or choking
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking

Phobia-related Disorders

A phobia is an intense fear caused by a specific object or situation. Common phobias include flying and heights, but people can develop phobias regarding almost anything. People with phobias feel fear that is out of proportion to the actual danger caused by that situation or object. People with a phobia may:

  • Experience an irrational or excessive worry about encountering the feared object or situation
  • Endure unavoidable objects and situations with intense anxiety or dread
  • Experience immediate, intense anxiety upon encountering the feared object or situation
  • Take steps to avoid the feared object or situation

 

Know the Risk Factors

handsThe risk factors for each type of anxiety disorder can vary, but some general risk factors for all types of anxiety disorders can include:

  • A family or genetic history of anxiety or other mental illnesses
  • Consumption of caffeine or medications (such as certain steroids or over-the-counter cold remedies) that can produce anxiety-like effects
  • Exposure to stressful and negative events in early childhood or adulthood
  • Health conditions, such as thyroid problems or heart arrhythmias

 

Actions You Can Take

Girl con videocallWhile you can’t predict what will cause anxiety disorders to develop, you can take the following steps to help reduce the impact of symptoms if you are anxious:

  • Avoid alcohol or drug use since it can cause or worsen anxiety.
  • Make it a priority to get a good night’s sleep, since poor sleep quality, insomnia, or sleep deprivation may increase your risks.
  • Our social interactions have been limited during the last few months but talking with friends over the phone and doing things that you enjoy while staying safe may help reduce your worries.
  • Seek help early if you are experiencing symptoms that don’t go away.

If you have an anxiety disorder, you should work with your doctor to choose the best treatment for you. In addition to psychotherapy or medication, there are other ways that you may benefit from when dealing with an anxiety disorder.

  • Support groups. A support group alone is not a substitute for therapy. But, in conjunction with other treatment, joining a support group and sharing your experiences with others could benefit you.
  • Meditation and techniques to manage stress. These can help people with anxiety disorders calm themselves and enhance the effects of therapy.

 

We Are Here to Support You

Doctor and patientYour mental health is important. If you are unsure whether you are experiencing occasional anxiety or an anxiety disorder, you can call AltaMed Behavioral Health Services directly at (855) 425-1777. We are here for you, and together we can find the answers you need.