Experiencing heart palpitations? Use your judgement
[Heart palpitations] are a feeling that people variably describe as “skipped beats,” “hard beats,” fluttering, or pounding. Most commonly, they last seconds to minutes. They are one of the most common complaints cardiologists see. They are usually benign and do not predict heart problems but can sometimes be associated with more serious problems. The list of causes is long. Usually they represent extra beats (called premature contractions by doctors). Caffeine, stress, and anxiety are common underlying causes. If the person is concerned, they should see a doctor to be evaluated, as reassurance often helps make the symptoms better or resolve. If the symptoms are persistent, last more than five minutes, cause the feeling of passing out, or if the person has a history of heart disease, they should be seen by a doctor sooner rather than later. —Dr. Todd Hurst, MD, Center Director for Cardiovascular Health at Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ Learn the reasons you might be experiencing heart palpitations.
If it starts taking you longer than usual to do certain activities, that could be a warning sign
Keep track of how long it takes you to walk or exercise a certain distance. As people age, many people think they’re slowing down because of “old age,” but actually they’re slowing down because of undiagnosed heart disease. For example, I ask patients to keep track of how long it takes them to walk one mile; from year to year there should not be dramatic changes in how long it takes. If there are, this may be a sign you’re developing heart disease. —Monali Y. Desai, MD
I treat people on a case-by-case basis
One of the most important—and challenging—things to do in cardiology is to determine a patient’s risk for future heart problems like heart attack, heart failure, and even death. The amount of risk… is the most important factor in deciding the best treatment. All treatments have potential side effects, so if a patient is at low risk, it makes sense to be conservative in choosing treatment options. However, if a patient is at high risk, it may make sense to recommend more aggressive treatment options. Decisions about everything from who should be prescribed high blood pressure and cholesterol medications all the way to who should undergo potentially risky procedures such as a heart catheterization or insertion of an implantable cardiac defibrillator are all based primarily on the future risk for the patient. By understanding your risk and how it is determined, you will better understand your physician’s recommendations. —Dr. Todd Hurst, MD Next, learn the things heart doctors do to protect their own hearts.