Postdate: 04 June 2018
Do you feel your heart skipping a beat sometimes? You suddenly experience a swelling feeling in the chest, or a strange beat in your throat. This is usually harmless, but there is an apparent reason for it.
When is it harmless?
As soon as you can feel your heart beat at all, you are having so-called palpitations. Once in a while your heart speeds up and beats more rapidly for a little while. This can be just one beat or continue for some minutes; sometimes even longer. Skipped beats can continue for about a day. There is often a demonstrable cause. Almost always this is harmless. Think of stress, being dehydrated, an (innocent and one-day) illness and exertion. Also keep in mind that coffee and some alcohol can also trigger rapid heartbeats. The list of causes can be infinitely long.
It is annoying when it happens but what can you do about it? Some tips:
1. Above all, try to relax.
Avoid going into a panic. Stress can make it worse. It is rare that something bad will happen. Sit down and make yourself relax. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, and just keep doing this for a few minutes, until you feel your heart slowly starting to settle down again.
At other times, when your heart is calm, try to regularly relax by consciously practicing such breathing exercises a few times. See also: what breathing exercises can I do?
2. Stimulate the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve is an important nerve that regulates your heart rhythm. It can be stimulated in certain places of the body. You can do this yourself. Pinch your nose shut and keep your mouth closed. Press as if you are having a difficult bowel movement. So, you actually need to exhale very powerfully against your closed nose and mouth. Keep this up to a count of 5. Alternatively, what also works, is to spray your face with ice cold water.
3. Have a big cough.
Coughing increases pressure in your chest. This can have an immediate favourable effect on the rhythm of your heart.
4. Drink water.
Do you think that you may be dehydrated? If so, drink plenty of water. See also: how do I know that I am drinking enough?
5. Make sure that you are getting enough magnesium.
Naturally, this depends on what you eat, and only works over the long-term. Magnesium has a calming effect. Eat nuts such as almonds. Use sesame seeds. Peanut butter, avocado, bananas, dark chocolate, spinach and dark leafy vegetables are also packed full of magnesium
In many cases, tachycardia or fast heart beats are completely innocent. They are just annoying. Keep an eye on when you get them. Try to discover a pattern. Do you get them after eating certain foods, after drinking wine or when you are stressed? Keep a small record of them.