Q. My mother has mentioned feeling her heart “flutter” occasionally. Could this be a warning sign of a stroke or heart attack?
A. Heart fluttering or palpitations are the sensation of an irregular heart rhythm or the sudden onset of a rapid heartbeat. Many of us experience this sometime in our lives, and it can cause dizziness, fatigue and even chest discomfort. Sometimes the flutters are fairly short-lived, lasting for just a few seconds at a time and then recurring throughout the day. These are often due to skipped beats in either the bottom or top chambers of the heart. Other times the palpitations are more sustained, lasting for several minutes, hours, or even days. Atrial fibrillation is an example of this type of rhythm problem. It’s a common problem, effecting more than two million people in the U.S. and is the most common cause of stroke in patients over 65 years of age. Most often, a fluttering heartbeat, while symptomatic, is not dangerous or life-threatening. It can be associated with more serious conditions such as cardiac arrest or early heart attack symptoms, but this is rare. If a person is experiencing flutters, it is best to check with a doctor to try to find the source of these symptoms and to see if some form of treatment is needed. Many patients with this condition should be on some form of a blood thinning agent to help prevent strokes.
Dr. Gregg Shander, M.D., FACC
The Chattanooga Heart Institute
2501 Citico Ave.
Chattanooga, TN 37404