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Date of last update: 10/20/2017.

Forum Name: Cardiology Symptoms

Question: Heart flutters up to 20 a day

 RichardC - Tue Jan 11, 2005 9:05 pm

Hello. I'm new to this forum and am very concerned about recent heart symptoms that I have been suffering from.

My problems first started when I was 15. My mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 and I suffered greatly from anxiety and became very stressed and emotional. As a result, when I was 16 (almost 17) I began to develop heart palpitations that came and went whenever I peaked at a very high level of stress. This caused heart palpitations (8 or 9 in total) each lasting between 1 and 1 and half minutes each. It caused me to sweat and go very pale, which is saying a lot, as I myself am very pale anyway.

I would also often lose myself in computer games to ignore what was going around me; this however only made the effect worse. I saw a doctor in 2001 shortly after these and he reasoned that this was due to my stress and was nothing to worry about. He thought they were harmless and would subside. As a result of calming myself down, they eventually stopped but as my mother became progressively ill I started to notice heart flutters or "skipped beats" which subsequently replaced the heart palpitations.

This got me extremely worried and I felt that I might have caused damage to my heart from the levels of stress, which I suffered constantly. When my mother died in 2002, I found it very difficult and as if my life had no meaning. I went back into education but found social interaction only increased my heart flutters still.

I now, at the age of between 17 until my current age (which is 19) still get them, possibly between 15 and 20 times a day. They can be from the very mild to the very noticeable and are most definitely related to stress. I find calming myself down can make me have 1 to no heart flutters in a day, but the stress of my life that I have to undertake day to day only encourages them.

I have done a lot of reading up on hypertension and the studies related to them and am now worried that I may have HBP (High Blood Pressure) which has damaged my arteries and is the cause of my flutters. I fill most of the symptoms: tiredness, sweating, clamminess, heart flutters, chest pains (of which I have noticed very recently and come and go on the left side of my chest, usually when I am sleeping - and also that my right arm often becomes swelled as if someone has cut off the circulation if i hold it in certain positions).

I last had my blood pressure checked a year ago and it was normal. However, I believe that I must have caused some effect on my heart. What I cannot understand however, is why the heart flutters happen more when I lie in certain positions or breath deeply whilst resting?

If you have read this far, I thank you very much for you time and would appreciate any feedback at all to this. I understand that this may be complex to give support to but anything at all to help or ease my mind would be greatly beneficial. I am very young and worried. With no parents to turn to I feel very alone in a situation of this magnitude.

Thank you again, Richard.
 Dr. Yasser Mokhtar - Sat Jan 15, 2005 3:34 pm

User avatar Dear Richard,

First of all, high blood pressure takes a much longer time than just a year to affect the arteries, so there is no worries what so ever.

What do you mean by the word palpitations? Would you please elaborate more. Do you just feel your heart beating at a normal rate and rhythm but just feel it or do you mean that you feel faster and regular or fast and regular or fast and irregular?

i see that you use the word flutters for skipped beats, tell me exactly what you feel when you have those skipped beats.

Palpitations have several causes including:
1. Mitral valve prolapse (a condition associated with palpitations, atypical chest pain in the other healthy young adult).
2. Hyperactive thyroid gland.
3. Electolyte disturbances.
4. Smoking.
5. Drinking alcohol.
6. Drinking too much caffeinated beverages.
7. Being tired and not getting enough sleep.
8. Stress.

If you have not had a thyroid function test or a blood test for electrolytes, i would strongly urge you to do so, even though the yield most probably is going to be low but just because they are so common and i think they have to be ruled out.

If you smoke, drink alcohol or too much caffeinated beverages (tea, coffee, pop, etc...), and you don't get enough sleep, i would encourage you to refrain from smoking, drinking alcohol and caffeinated beverages and have enough sleep. These measures, even though they sound simple yet, they help a lot of patients getting rid of their symptoms.

At one point in time, "skipped beats" of certain type used to be treated, but there was a study conducted on healthy young adults, in which they wore heart monitors for 24 hours, and it was found that skipped beats are common in this healthy population, so it was decided not treat them anymore.

You have had these symptoms for quite some time. And you have a choice of whether or not you want this pursued further.

i think from your description, that most probably, there is nothing really serious.

This being said, however, i would like you to see your doctor to have the above mentioned tests done, and if your doctor thinks it is indicated may be have an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) done to rule out mitral valve prolapse.

If all these tests come back normal and you did all the recommendations about stopping smoking, etc..., and you still have these palpitations, you can either choose to get treatment for the palpitations, or if your doctor thinks that these are secondary to stress, you can take a medication that helps with stress, and see whether it helps.

Thank you very much for using our website and i hope that this information helped.

Yasser Mokhtar, M.D.
 RichardC - Fri Jan 21, 2005 2:43 pm

The palpitations I had came before the irregular heart beats I felt. However, in saying that, the palpitations always began with what felt to be the skipped beats that I feel now. If I was to describe the process of the palpitations from start to finish that I had exactly, i would say it was as followed:

Normal heart rate followed by LARGE amounts of stress - which always seemed to be the main cause - increasing my heart rate.
Constant increased heart rate (usually built up over a few hours), followed by a sudden flutter or "skipped beat".
Irratic heart beats immediately after the flutter, causing my heart rate to reach probably between 150 - 170 beats per minute? Very rapid. This lasted a very short time, possibly 1 to 1 and a half minutes, usually prolonged by the stress of fear and stopped as quick as it began. Normally my heart could even return to a slowed rate, if not resting pace.

These palpitations have now stopped as I reduced the large amounts of stress in my life, however these left me with the "skipped beats" i mentioned previously. The "skipped beats" can be felt as mild, (sometimes hardly at all) to the noticable which usually effects me worringly as I feel it just as I could feel someone gripping my hand. Its feels like a sudden contraction of the heart which grips for a moment and then suddenly releases again with one hard heart beat.. as if my heart had lungs and took a deep breath for a moment, and then a sudden hard breath out (returning to normal pace) is the only way I can sort of describe it. One of the most familar things I managed to link it with was from a website which showed a video of the heart prematurely firing, allowing the ventricle more time to fill with blood, having to push out harder than usual to push or "force" the blood out. At least I think thats correct.

Another example would be to take your hand and simulate the beating of your heart with your fingers. Just move them at a normal pace as if the heart was resting then suddently contract your fingers inward for a brief moment (maybe half a second to a second or so), and then release quickly with a push and return to a normal pace <<<< THAT is what I feel. I couldnt give you a closer example.

These often happen around stress and I sometimes can have up to or more than 3 in a row if I am especially anxious about a situation or stressor.

About the palpitations and causes. Firstly, I do not smoke and never have or will. I drink water at home and only ever drink stimulants such as coffee or coke when I am out (which is very rarely). I limit my amounts of alcohol sensibly and I usually eat as healthy as I can. Better than most students of my age, that can be said! I am at the exact right body weight for my height which is 5'9 and I have never been overweight or abused my body through drugs or anything of the sorts. The only symtoms I can relate with are stress and lack of sleep. I always look tired and often suffer from fatigue. That said, sometimes I take more sleep than necessary and feel/look more tired than usual. However I do keep myself idle sometimes, which can sometimes be from fear of pushing my body, e.g. resulting in the "skipped heart beats" being felt or just that I do not take part in enough activities. This can cause me to continually focus on the stress, however, as it plays on my mind whilst I am do nothing in particular.

This is still of great concern to me. I believe the arm feeling i felt is due to my heavy bag I cart around at college but am still unsure. I feel, even though I have not yet been consulted by a doctor that through what I have been saying, this is seems to be greatly connected with stress. But can stress and lack of sleep really cause these onsets?

Thank you ever so much for your feedback so far and in helping me to find out what is causing these!

Thank you again, RichardC
 Dr. Yasser Mokhtar - Mon Feb 21, 2005 8:07 pm

User avatar Dear Richard,

Thank you very much for the update.

What you described is the typical description for a premature or early heart beat.

i don't think you have to worry about these beats whatsoever and the best thing to do even though it might sound harsh is to try and not pay any attention to them. Ignore them if you can. If you think that stress is the main reason behind them, either try to avoid stressful conditions, learn to cope with stress or use medications for this purpose to help you deal with stress till you learn how to control your stress levels even better than you are currently doing and i think that you are doing a very good job so far.

Thank you very much for using our website and i hope that this information helped.

Yasser Mokhtar, M.D.
 RichardC - Mon Mar 07, 2005 10:39 am

You say "I don't think you have to worry" and "If you think that stress is the main reason behind them" - as far as I know, I am 100% sure these are related to stress.

Do you think, however, that I should still be seen by a doctor just incase? or will he only confirm what you have already said?

Secondly, I read something and this is probably irrelevant, but can anxiety-induced stress cause the heart to enlarge and possibly cause heart failure in the future? I'm completely unsure about what I have just mentioned, but it certainly would put my mind to rest if I was sure that stress-related "skipped beats" had no connection with the cause of an enlarged heart.

Thank you again, your help in this has been so great in putting my mind at ease, but I'm sure you understand anxiety still looms from dwelling on this matter.


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