Heart palpitations are a subjective feeling of the heart beating. You have them when you feel them. What is more important is finding out if those heart palpitations are harmless or if they are the symptoms of an underlying heart arrhythmia. See the doctor right away if you experience heart palpitations.
When attempting to determine the cause of your palpitations the doctor will start by taking your medical history and asking questions about your recent personal history (such as whether you have taken any drugs recently), then he or she will likely conduct a physical examination. The doctor may also order some tests to check your heart function.
The most basic test of heart function is an ECG (electrocardiogram). This involves placing electrodes on your chest and recording the electrical activity of the heart. This test can detect arrhythmias and may also pinpoint the source of a problem within the heart. This test can help determine if you have heart problems but it cannot rule out heart problems entirely.
If the doctor suspects there is an underlying heart problem, he or she may order further tests including blood tests or a heart monitor test that records your heart's activity for one to two days. If necessary, the doctor may also order an echocardiogram that uses sound waves to get an image of the heart in action, or a stress test that looks at your heart's activity under physical duress.
Continued on page 5: How do I know if I have heart palpitations?