Symptoms and Causes of Skipped Heartbeat
The heart has a particular rhythm to the way it beats, and a skipped heartbeat can disturb the timing and disrupt the way the beating of the heart. A disturbance to a normal heartbeat is known as an arrhythmia, and it can harmless or it may be a signal of a more serious health problems.
How the Heart Beats
There are 4 compartments in the heart – the left and right atria are at the top of the heart, and the left and right ventricles are at the bottom of the heart. An electric pulse travels from section to section within the heart, and this is what makes the heart beat. The electrical signals that are sent through the heart in such a way as to create a regular rhythm, and a normal heartbeat.
Heart rates can vary greatly from person to person. In adults, a normal resting heart rate can range from 50 beats per minute to 100 beats per minute. In the same way, the symptoms and effects of a skipped heartbeat are different for everyone as well.
Symptoms of Skipped Heartbeat
The symptoms of a skipped heartbeat are generally subtle, and sometimes irregularities are not even noticed. Some people experience disturbances in their heart rhythm as a fluttering of the heart. Others may report a rapid or racing heart beat as a signal that the heart rhythm is off. On their own, heart palpitations or fluttering are generally harmless. When they are accompanied with other symptoms, however, they may be a sign of a serious heart problem.
When an irregular heartbeat comes with the following symptoms, it should be checked out by a medical professional:
- chest pains
- chronic fatigue
- feeling lightheaded
- general weakness
- shortness of breath.
Potentially life-threatening health issues may be the cause of a skipped heartbeat. Left untreated, problems associated with heart beat may lead to a stroke, heart attack or heart failure.
Causes of Irregular Heartbeat
In the absence of other symptoms, changes in heart rate that occur every once in awhile can be caused by a number of different substances or situations. Smoking cigarettes, drinking caffeine and certain drugs can all cause the heartbeat to become more rapid, because they involve ingesting chemical stimulants that may affect the heart rhythm. Usually the heart rate will slow down when these stimulants wear off, but some people have an extreme reaction to these substances. This is especially true with certain drugs – both legal (cold and cough medicines) and illegal (cocaine), and some have been known to cause heart failure and death with very little warning.
Some vitamin and weight loss supplements have been found to have an influence on the way the heart beats. In particular, ephedra, goldenseal, motherwort and oleander have been identified as natural substances that may lead to changes in heart rate.
Ephedra, also known as ma huang, is actually banned in the United States and cannot be sold here. Several years ago, ephedra was commonly used in diet pills until it came under fire for possibly dangerous and deadly side effects. Although there is still a bit of controversy surrounding the use of ephedra, it is thought by some that taking pills that contain ephedra can cause a heart attack or stroke. Ephedra may have even been the cause of sudden death in more than one case.
This serves as a warning that just because something is natural, that does not mean it cannot be harmful. Anyone with a history of heart problems should always use caution when taking stimulants – natural or otherwise.