What causes your heart to race

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by By JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 1:34 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 24 at 12:51 PM

Video: What causes your heart to race

Occasional heart palpitations may be nothing to worry about, but a racing heart may signal a more serious condition.

Too much caffeine, too much alcohol and too little sleep are a few of the things that can trigger palpitations or cardiac arrhythmia.

"You know, everybody has them," said Dr. Arthur Agatston, cardiologist. "Sometimes they describe it as a fluttering. Sometimes, they feel something in their throat. Sometimes, a sinking sensation in their chest."

Agatston explains the palpitations are actually extra heartbeats. What causes them is just stimulation of adrenaline indirectly or directly.

Agatston says patients are more likely to complain about a racing heart as they age and if they're sedentary. He has some advice on when to see a doctor.

"The time it becomes urgent is when the palpitations are sustained; if they're fast and regular -- or even irregular -- but aren't stopping," Agatston said. "And if you have any associated symptoms - weakness, lightheadedness, chest pain."

Doctors may use an EKG and echocardiogram to determine if there is a more serious problem. If everything's normal, Agatston often recommends a fish oil supplement to ease the symptoms.

"They help stabilize the membranes of the electrical system of the heart," he said.

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