Heart palpitations can be distressing to say the least.
They can make you feel like your heart is racing or pounding so hard, that you think it’s about to jump out of your chest. These sensations may be felt in your chest, neck or throat.
No one likes to have the unpleasant awareness that their heartbeat is acting a bit crazy. When your heart’s rhythm is abnormal, you may feel anxious and concerned. But what’s actually happening when your heartbeat changes from its normal pattern? Most of the time, your heart keeps a steady pace, beating between 60 and 100 times a minute. When your heart rate speeds up to over 100 beats per minute, you have a condition called tachycardia. If you heart rate is too slow, it is called bradycardia. When you experience an occasional extra heartbeat, doctors call the phenomenon extrasystole.
Most of the time, palpitations are not usually something you need to worry about. Sometimes, however, palpitations do signal a serious problem especially if they represent an abnormal heart rhythm called arrhythmia.
Those at risk for arrhythmia may have one of the following health complications:
- Heart disease
- An abnormal heart valve
- Abnormal blood levels of potassium
- An overactive thyroid
- Low levels of oxygen in the blood
In a recent study, researchers have discovered a potentially simple treatment for atrial fibrillation: lose weight. These researchers recruited 150 people with a BMI greater than 27 (considered overweight). Every time someone’s BMI goes up by one point, medical experts estimate that the risk of atrial fibrillation goes up by five percent.
Seventy-five of the participants were assigned to a weight management program that lasted eight weeks. These participants were only allowed to consume between 800 and 1,200 calories per day. Two meals consisted of a weight loss shake, while the third meal emphasized proteins.
Along with the calorie-restricted diet, these participants were asked to exercise three times per week, for 20 minutes each session. These 20 minute sessions gradually increased to 45 minutes.
The other 75 participants were simply given advice regarding nutrition and exercise.
The research team found that those following the weight loss program lost an average of 33 pounds, compared to 12.5 pounds lost by the advice group. The good news? Both groups saw a reduction in their atrial fibrillation symptoms. However, the weight management group showed a significantly greater reduction in symptoms.
Help your heart out and keep your weight at a healthy level. Get help to formulate a weight loss program and stick with it. Keep active and get some exercise at least three times per week.
If you experience any problems with heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat, get the condition checked out to rule out anything serious.
- “Weight Loss Can Combat Irregular Heart Beat, Study Says,” MedlinePlus web site, Nov. 18, 2013, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_142608.html; last accessed Nov. 20, 2013.
- Abed, H.S., et al., “Effect of weight reduction and cardiometabolic risk factor management on symptom burden and severity in patients with atrial fibrillation: a randomized clinical trial,” JAMA. Nov 20, 2013; 310(19): 2,050-60.
Victor Marchione, MD received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years. Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News and the NBC Today Show and is the editor of the popular The Food Doctor newsletter. Dr. Marchione has also served as Principal Investigator in at least a dozen clinical research projects relating to serious ailments such as bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).