Have you ever felt how your heart was pounding inside your chest? Maybe you have felt palpitations in your neck or throat, or perhaps felt like your heart was skipping a beat or beating too fast. If this is the case, then you have experienced heart palpitations.
Your heart beats around 80 times a minute – less if you are an athlete or very fit – impulsing your blood all throughout your body. When you require a higher blood flow, for example, if you are exercising or are afraid and might need to fight or run away very quickly, your heart will beat faster and, sometimes, more strongly against the walls of your thorax. In most cases, heart palpitations are normal and require no medical attention; you might get scared and fear that something is wrong with your body, but palpitations often go away in a matter of seconds or minutes. Here are some of the most common causes of heart palpitations.
1. Anxiety and stress
Our heart beats faster when we feel afraid. This is a natural response and, originally, it is meant to help us face the threats and difficult situations we come across. Before our culture became complex and transformed our lives, our existence as a species was very simple and our problems were more physical than mental: run away from predators, hide from avalanches, fight a rival; and for this, we needed increased blood flow to carry to our muscles the extra glucose we needed.
Anxiety and stress are modern evolutions of our primal responses of fear. Episodes of acute anxiety such as panic attacks are known for causing strong palpitations. Unless there is a very specific underlying heart condition, these palpitations are completely harmless and go away as soon as we calm down. You can ease your heartbeat with breathing exercises, exhaling more slowly than you inhale to decrease your heart rate.