Can indigestion cause heart palpitations?

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Can indigestion cause heart palpitations?
Electrodes monitoring the heart (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Thomas)

Overeating or eating spicy foods can cause indigestion (dyspepsia), which in turn can cause heart palpitations. Whether heart palpitations are serious or not depends on your overall health. If they are caused merely by indigestion, you probably don’t have much to worry about, but truly understanding the cause of your palpitations or irregular heartbeat is critical.

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Definition

The National Library of Health’s Medline Encyclopedia defines heart palpitation as “heartbeat sensations that feel like your heart is pounding or racing.” It is an indication that the heart is momentarily not behaving properly. “You may simply have an unpleasant awareness of your own heartbeat, or may feel skipped or stopped beats.” Although this condition is common and often harmless, it can frighten you.

Description

Caffeine can cause indigestion, which in turn may lead to heart palpitations. However, arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) can also cause palpitations, and this condition is more of a concern. Seek medical attention if your palpitations last longer than two or three minutes.

If you have felt a missed or skipped heartbeat, this is termed an early heartbeat. This is when your heart beats prematurely and takes a rest. There is no cause for worry unless you experience fluttering in the chest and severe palpitations with other symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should seek emergency medical attention if heart palpitations are accompanied by dizziness, shortness of breath, chest discomfort or pain or fainting.

Diagnosis of Heart Palpitations

Differentiating between panic attacks, which are your body’s response to fear, and palpitations might be difficult. To know for certain about your irregular heartbeat, an electrocardiogram (a device that shows heart activity) must monitor your heart. This test takes about 10 minutes and is done in a hospital. During the exam, electrodes covered with gel are placed on your legs, arms and chest area. The electrocardiogram records the activities of your heart through the electrodes and graphs them onto paper.

Treatment

Persistent palpitations can be treated with drugs called beta blockers. Taken in small doses these medications lower the blood pressure and slow the heart rate. If the cause of your palpitations is an abnormal heart rhythm, surgery might be suggested, but it is rarely required.

Prevention

If your palpitations are caused by indigestion and not arrhythmia, they can be prevented by cutting back on foods such as cola and coffee. These tend to upset the stomach and cause indigestion.

Don't guess. Consult with your doctor to be certain of the nature of your heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat.

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