Tonye Teme, MD, a board-certified cardiologist with Franciscan Physician Network Indiana Heart Physicians in Indianapolis who specializes in cardiac electrophysiology, answers your questions about pulse skipping and atrial fibrillation.
Q: When I Feel My Pulse Skip Once Every 12 or 20 Beats, Does That Mean There's Something Wrong With My Heart?
A: Heart palpitations, or the feeling of your heart skipping a beat or "flip-flopping" in your chest, are very common. Sometimes people describe a "strong pulse" in their chest or neck that makes them feel briefly uneasy. Most of the time, the person has no other long-lasting symptoms.
Usually, heart palpitations with no other symptoms are not serious. Often, stress, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol or medications like pseudoephedrine can be behind them. Heart palpitations may also be a signal that your body is low in potassium or magnesium. Sometimes palpitations increase for a short time after exercise because, even though you've stopped your activity, adrenalin levels remain high. Anxiety and panic attacks also can affect your heart rate. Again, if the symptoms go away quickly, there's usually nothing to worry about.
Q: Can Diet Changes Affect My Heart Palpitations?
A. Cutting back on coffee or alcohol or switching some medications may reduce heart palpitations.
Q: Can My Pulse Skipping Be A Sign Of Serious Heart Problems?
A: Heart palpitations may be a sign of a more serious heart rhythm disorder. When an irregular heartbeat continues or speeds up for longer periods of time, you may have atrial fibrillation (afib). Untreated, afib can put you at risk for stroke or heart attack.
People with afib usually have other symptoms, such as fatigue, weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath, sweating and confusion.
Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and their severity, especially if you already have been diagnosed with heart disease or have a family history of heart disease. The right lifestyle changes and the right treatment at the right time are key to staying heart-healthy.