FEELING you heartbeat can be scary.
Whether you've just come back from a run or you've woken up suddenly from a nightmare, a racing ticker can easily lead to a panicked Google search.
Typically, heart palpitations – characterised by fast, fluttering, or pounding heartbeats – are simply part of living in a human body, and are nothing to worry about.
But how do you know whether something is harmless, or if you just need to take some deep breaths?
Thankfully, a group of cardiologists have explained when it is 'normal' to feel your heartbeat – and when to worry.
When I'm exercising?
As expected, your heart is meant to race while at the gym.
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This is especially the case if your workout is intense, according to Dr Anjali Dutta, a cardiologist with Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey, US.
This is because the harder your exercise, your heart has to work harder to keep you going.
Your muscles need more oxygen, which means your heart will beat faster to pump your blood through your veins to deliver it, she told Well and Good.
However, if you're still feeling your heartbeat hours after your workout, it's worth seeing a doctor, she added.
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When I'm resting?
If you've ever notice your heartbeat get louder while resting on the sofa or in the moments before you drift off, fear not – this isn’t necessarily anything to worry about.
"It is normal to feel/hear your heartbeat while resting if it lasts for a few seconds to minutes," Dr Anjali said.
There are several reasons why this could be happening, including high stress levels or drinking too much coffee.
The position you fall asleep in could also be contributing to that pounding heart, according to Dr Sam Setareh, director of cardiology at Beverly Hills Cardiovascular, US.
“Sleeping with a bent or curled posture on one’s side can elevate internal pressure, leading to palpitations," he explained (even if you find that position comfy!)
According to Dr Anjali, this is only a cause for concern when it happens multiple times, several days in a row.
In other parts of my body?
Feeling your heart race is scary enough, but what about when it happens in other parts of the body? Like your ears?
As it turns out, feeling your ticker in other places is also no major cause for concern.
However, people are more likely to notice arrhythmias (an irregular heartbeat) in the chest or ear, Dr Anjali explained. But as long as this doesn't happen too often you're probably okay.
According to the expert arrhythmias, which affect more than two million people in the UK,are more likely if your symptoms occur often.
And if that’s the case, she said, your doctor can get you tested and provide treatment.
What causes heart palpitations?
There are a number of things that can cause your heart to pound in your chest.
The NHS lists the following reasons:
- strenuous exercise
- lack of sleep
- stress and anxiety
- alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and recreational drugs
Sometimes heart palpitations can be a sign you're going through the menopause. Some people get them during pregnancy.
Less often, they can be caused by a condition such as iron deficiency anaemia, an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or a heart rhythm problem (arrhythmia).
Dr Sam suggests people who suffer from heart palpitations try to make sure eating a well balanced diet.
According to the NHS, this means eating five portions fruit and vegetables every day, fibre starchy foods like potatoes and bread, some dairy such as milk and s source of protein like beans or meat.
People should choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat them in small amount.
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They should also aim to drink between six and eight glasses on wine per day.
"The most common electrolyte imbalances which could lead to palpitations and arrhythmias are those related to magnesium and potassium," he said.
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