Features November 2014 Issue

How Can You Tell if a Palpitation Is Serious or Harmless and Fleeting?

Experiencing a racing heart isn't unusual, and often it's temporary. But there are times when that pounding in your chest is an emergency.

You’re sitting on your couch watching a movie one evening when you notice your heart seems to be racing or thumping in your chest. Is it a heart attack? New onset atrial fibrillation (AF)? Or is it a harmless palpitation that may be related to that extra glass of wine you had with dinner (see story above) or the anxiety you feel about the plane ride you’re taking soon? Knowing how to react depends largely on a few other factors, explains Bruce Wilkoff, MD, Director of Cardiac Pacing and Tachyarrhythmia Devices at Cleveland Clinic.

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