I have high blood pressure, but I do not know the cause. I have been feeling like my heart is pumping way too hard sometimes for no reason. My heart rate is normal most of the time, but the actual beats feel forceful.
This is a good question. I have many patients who are aware of their heart beat. This is often called feeling "palpitations." There are many causes of such palpitations and an evaluation by a doctor is important. This will usually include an ECG and sometimes a monitor to take home to record an episode of palpitations as it occurs. If a concerning heart rhythm, or arrhythmia, is identified a cardiologist should be consulted for further diagnosis and treatment. However, most of the time palpitations are easily treated.
Some of the at home treatments for palpitations I discuss with my patients include:
- Adequate hydration: If you are dehydrated the body will respond with an increased heart rate - which can feel like a forceful beating
- Avoidance of caffeine: This stimulant can cause fast and strong heart beats.
- Stress reduction: Anxiety releases a substance in the body called adrenalin which stimulates the heart. Various techniques can improve anxiety and stress, such as exercise and yoga.
- Avoidance of alcohol: Alcohol can cause dehydration (see above) and other effects on the body which may stimulate extra heart beats.
Many of the above causes of palpitations can also contribute to high blood pressure. With adequate treatment both may improve.
It is very important to get a thorough exam with a doctor before using the simple techniques above. Many arrhythmias can cause palpitations and must be accurately diagnosed and treated.
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