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Can High Blood Pressure Cause Palpitations?

Jack Wolfson DO, FACC Board Certified Cardiologist

May 1, 2023

When addressing health concerns, it’s easy to place them in silos, seeking out specialists to solve the problem. Skin troubles? See a dermatologist. Digestive complaints? There’s a gastroenterologist for that. Allergies? Schedule w

When addressing health concerns, it’s easy to place them in silos, seeking out specialists to solve the problem. Skin troubles? See a dermatologist. Digestive complaints? There’s a gastroenterologist for that. Allergies? Schedule with your allergist.

However, true healing lies in understanding that our body’s organs, cells, and systems are interconnected. For example, skin issues may result from digestive problems. Similarly, heart palpitations can sometimes stem from various areas outside the heart, including the gut, brain, and blood vessels.

Despite their initial appearance as distinct issues, high blood pressure and heart palpitations are more closely connected than one might think. In fact, high blood pressure can significantly contribute to the onset of heart palpitations.

Fortunately, the approach to managing both conditions is the same, and it doesn’t involve popping pills. Instead, adhering to the Eat Well, Live Well, Think Well philosophy is the best solution to blood pressure and heart palpitation woes.

Understanding blood pressure

Blood pressure reflects the strength with which blood presses against artery walls while circulating through the body. As the heart beats, it generates this pressure, propelling blood to flow through the arteries and reach every part of the body.

Blood should flow with ease through the vessels. However, the body adjusts blood pressure as it needs to. For example, it often raises blood pressure in response to stress or exercise to circulate more oxygen throughout the body. A healthy blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 mmHg. High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when the blood pressure consistently reads above this level.

While hypertension is generally more concerning, extremely low blood pressure can also trigger heart problems. If the blood pressure is too low, the heart must work harder to pump oxygenated blood, resulting in a fast or irregular heart rate that manifests as palpitations.

Understanding heart palpitations

The heart is meant to beat rhythmically with little disruptions to the cadence. However, sometimes it falls out of tune. Heart palpitations are abnormal sensations that occur when the heart is out of sync. These irregular beats often feel like a skipped beat, a fluttering, or a pounding sensation in the chest.

Heart palpitations, while common, shouldn’t be considered normal. Rather, they indicate an underlying imbalanced issue in the body. Overlooking frequent palpitations may result in more severe heart rhythm disorders, such as atrial fibrillation (AFib), and heighten the risk of stroke and other cardiovascular complications.

5 ways high blood pressure contributes to heart palpitations

High blood pressure contributes to heart palpitations both directly and indirectly. Five of the most common ways elevated blood pressure affects the rhythm of the heart include:

1. Places more strain on the heart

Consider your heart a pump and the arteries the pipes through which the blood flows. When the pressure in the pipes becomes too high, the pump has to work harder to push the blood through. Eventually, this pump tires out.

Unfortunately, this increased workload causes the heart to beat faster and more forcefully to maintain adequate blood flow. The resulting strain on the heart may cause palpitations.

2. Reduces flexibility of the heart

Persistent high blood pressure often causes the heart muscle to thicken, which in medical terms is called hypertrophy. A thickened heart is less flexible and unable to pump blood as effectively. As the heart attempts to compensate, it pumps harder, which sometimes causes palpitations.

3. Alters electrical pathways

The electricity that runs through the heart typically follows a predictable pathway. However, if the heart changes shape or size, it can alter the normal electrical pathways, sometimes resulting in abnormal rhythms. These arrhythmias may manifest as heart palpitations.

4. Contributes to electrolyte imbalances

Individuals with high blood pressure sometimes grapple with electrolyte imbalances. These crucial elements—potassium, calcium, sodium, and magnesium—are vital in keeping the heart ticking smoothly.

Electrolyte imbalances can arise from kidney damage brought on by high blood pressure or as an unintended consequence of medications prescribed to keep hypertension in check, especially diuretics. These “water pills” encourage the body to flush out extra fluid via urine, occasionally leading to a shortage of these vital electrolytes. Without the right electrolyte balance, the heart may experience palpitations.

5. Increases stress

High blood pressure can find itself on a two-way street with stress and anxiety—both causing and being caused by these emotional states. Unpleasant emotions trigger the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which bump up the heart rate and blood pressure. This spike can pave the way for heart palpitations to make an unwelcome appearance.

Next Steps

There’s a reason that high blood pressure is often referred to as “the silent killer.” Most people don’t know they have it until it’s caused extensive damage. Unfortunately, there are very few obvious outward signs of high blood pressure unless it’s severe. One of the subtle signs of high blood pressure may be heart palpitations.

The good news for individuals with high blood pressure or heart palpitations is that the remedies are the same. Adhering to NHD’s Eat Well, Live Well, Think Well philosophy significantly lessens your risk of both conditions.

If you have high blood pressure and want help lowering it, consider taking our highly recommended online course Natural Treatment Solutions for High Blood Pressure. This course offers education, meal plans, and lifetime access so you can visit it as many times as you’d like. It also offers access to a community of like-minded people who are on the same path as you.

Moreover, if you desire more personalized help with your high blood pressure or heart palpitations, our cardiovascular experts can help you. Consider a free 20-minute health coaching strategy call to learn how our team can help pave the way to your 100 year heart.

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