Common ailments

Heart palpitations

I am a 64 year old woman and I have recently noticed my heart racing when I am not doing any exercise. I can sometimes feel my heartbeat pounding in my neck and this usually happens a little while after I have had a meal.

It sounds as though you are suffering from heart palpitations. A palpitation is an irregularity in the heart’s rate or rhythm which can range from a fluttering feeling to a racing, skipping or thumping sensation, and which usually lasts a few seconds or minutes.

Although palpitations can be alarming, in most cases they are harmless. However, if they are accompanied by other symptoms such as tightness in your chest or dizziness, this could indicate a more serious problem with your heart.

It is interesting that you have noticed this happening after you’ve had a meal as some foods, particularly rich or spicy foods, can bring on palpitations. Also, some foods contain a substance called tyramine, a natural chemical that has a stimulating effect on the heart thereby causing an irregular heartbeat. Tyramine is present in foods such as cheese, cured meats and any foods that have been pickled, fermented, smoked or aged. Drinking excessive amounts of caffeine or alcohol, or smoking, can also cause palpitations. If you do consume a lot of caffeine or any of the foods described above then try reducing your intake of them to see if this lessens the frequency and intensity of you palpitations.

Some medical conditions can also bring on heart palpitations. These include low blood sugar levels, anaemia, an overactive thyroid, some types of low blood pressure or a problem with the heart itself.

I would advise you to visit your GP in any event so that a proper diagnosis can be made and to ensure that there isn’t a more serious underlying cause of your palpitations.

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