Many people know the feeling of a stumbling heart. Normally the heart beats regularly and almost unnoticed. Or you can feel the strong heartbeat during physical exertion or excitement. Sometimes one becomes aware of an irregularity in the heartbeat. This heart stumbling is caused by so-called extrasystoles.
How dangerous is that?
In most cases, extrasystoles are completely harmless and have no disease value: for example, they are triggered by stimulants (coffee, nicotine, alcohol), an active autonomic nervous system or overtiredness. However, a few details must be considered here: If the heart stumbling occurs over a longer period of time (several minutes to hours), or if there are accompanying symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness or clouding of consciousness, a doctor should be consulted. With special examinations (especially by means of an ECG), the doctor can quickly determine whether there is a need for action.
For example, a cardiac stumble can also be a sign of heart disease, such as inflammation of the heart muscle or calcification of the coronary arteries, or it can be triggered by high psychological stress. However, a cardiac stutter can also be the symptom of a completely different, less dangerous disease, such as hyperthyroidism or electrolyte imbalance. Certain drugs can also cause a heart stumble as a side effect.
Extrasystoles – What is that?
Extrasystoles are additional beats of the heart outside the normal rhythm. This phenomenon occurs because the heart cells are activated from a different location than is normally the case. Normally, the electrical excitation occurs at the sinus node, which is located in the right atrium of the heart.
From there, the electrical excitation propagates through the heart and activates the individual cells similar to a wave. This causes the heart to contract and pump the blood into the body’s circulation. In the case of an extrasystole, this excitation wave occurs earlier than the next regular beat of the sinus node and at a different location of the atria or ventricles, resulting in an additional heartbeat.
After a completed excitation wave, the heart cells are unable to be reactivated for a short moment. The next beat then starts again from the sinus node and the normal rhythm is resumed. This can cause a short pause between two heartbeats. If the normal rhythm begins again, this is expressed by the feeling of a heart stumbling.