What is giving my father more frequent heart palpitations?

3 answers | Last updated: Dec 07, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My elderly father has been complaining about frequent heart palpitations for almost a year. He used to have about ten a day, but about two weeks ago, he started having them a lot more frequently. What could be causing these frequent heart palpitations and what should we do about it?

Expert Answers

Barry M. Massie is chief of cardiology at the San Francisco V.A. Medical Center.

There are a number of possible causes. Sometimes palpitations (feeling the heartbeat) are the result of anxiety and have nothing to do with a heart abnormality. Palpitations can also be caused by irregular heartbeats, which may feel like extra beats or skipped beats. Even though this is common and usually isn't serious, it can still be worrisome.

On the other hand, palpitations can also indicate a more serious condition, such as atrial fibrillation, in which the heart beats rapidly and irregularly. Palpitations can also represent bursts of abnormal heartbeats that can degenerate into rhythms that don't produce adequate blood flow, which may result in passing out or cardiac arrest.

How can you tell the difference between a benign cause and a more serious underlying condition? If palpitations occur along with symptoms such as dizziness, passing out, or nearly passing out, this is a cause for concern. A previous heart attack or heart failure increases the likelihood that the palpitations may reflect a more serious abnormality.

Because your father's palpitations are occurring more frequently, he should see his physician. The doctor will probably order an electrocardiogram (EKG) and perhaps other tests, like a 24-hour ambulatory electrocardiogram recording or a stress test.

Community Answers

Zonajim answered...

I've suffered through a very similar situation, and it just kept getting worse. I was having 30-40 palps per minute, 24 hours a day. I did a lot of work with lots of doctors until I finally found out that I had a congenital heart defect that for some reason decided to become active in my mid-fifties. I had a procedure last May to fix a "dual AV Node". I'm 100% palpitation free now.

If I were you, and have live near a large city, I'd try to find an electrophsiologist, also called an EP. These are heart doctors that specialize in the electrical systems of the heart. They have the tools to track down the problem and fixt it. They can tell you if it's serious or not.

Llp answered...

i have had irregular heart beats for over 30 years...skipping beats and extra beats... often there are weeks of normalcy...suddenly, there will occur literally hundreds of irregular beats daily, for perhaps a couple weeks...very frustrating and concerning... they appear to feel so serious...i have had all the tests and even the nuclear testing that show basic normality...they can destroy the confidence of the day and change your entire outlook...how could something that feels so uncomfortable and serious, be so benign?....still searching for answers....any ideas?....what i would give to have this solved....please relay any answers or suggestion to bluebrutus11@gmail.com... must this continue from now on?.....thanks, T.L.S.