Ever felt like your heart just missed its own beat? Like it lost the rhythm and then tried to catch up? Some people feel it in their chest, some in the throat and others on the neck. Dont be alarmed though, heart palpitations are usually just a change in your heartbeat because of stress or physical effort. The increased frequency of the heartbeat is in fact a normal physiological condition which can occur every time the heart is subjected to an effort, either physical or emotional.

But your high heart rate can be an alarm signal when it is too high or when it spikes without any apparent reason, as explained by Dr. Joshua Mascioli, head of the Electrophysiology Unit of Humanitas Gavazzeni Bergamo.

“A strong emotion can cause an increased heart rate even up to 120 beats per minute, which does not imply abnormality. However, if the heart rate reaches 180, we are faced with a potential dangerous situation. At this speed, a heart that is not perfectly healthy will not fulfill its primary function, that is to pump blood throughout the body”.

The importance of how your heart adjusts its self

Heart rate can vary from person to person depending on various factors. These factors include physical fitness, health status, sex, age, and anxiety levels. In principle, it is considered that a condition of normal frequency at rest, should be between 50 and 100 beats per minute. The rate can sometimes go over or drop below this rate due to a number of factors.

“You have to control both bradycardia, that is when the beat is slower, and tachycardia, when it is faster” says Dr. Mascioli. “The increased frequency in certain circumstances such as the moments leading up to a situation of particular tension, be it the start of an athletic competition or a question in school, is due to the action of adrenaline. Adrenaline is a substance that acts on the heart rate by increasing it. Nothing to worry about in this case, especially when one is able to control his/her reactions.”

“If you are in a state of rest, and there is a sudden increase from 50 to 130, 140 or more heartbeats per minute for no apparent reason, then there is something wrong. You may be faced with arrhythmia, a potentially dangerous condition that must be reported to a doctor as soon as possible.”


Tachycardia colorful word on the wooden background

Tachycardia, a wake-up call

The reasons for such a sudden increase in the heart rate are many. They must be identified as soon as possible in order to allow for a timely intervention in cases of arrhythmia.

“Tachycardia, in addition to palpitations can also be associated with chest pain caused by arrhythmic disorders (i.e. electrical, coronary or affecting the heart muscle). It can also be caused by a valve problem. We must know how to listen for all dangerous situations – concludes Dr. Mascioli – where the heartbeat is a warning.”


Bottom line

Heart palpitations are normal in most cases, especially when we can identify the reasons behind them. It is strongly advisable though to consider whether the heart palpitations you are experiencing are justifiable and visit a doctor if you feel otherwise.