Heart Palpitations is an unnatural awareness of our beating heart, which we barely notice on day-to-day basis. It may arise when the pace of our heart beat increases beyond the normal range. It is usually triggered by anxiety or inability to sleep.
What is anxiety, its causes and symptoms?
An average heart rate is about 70 beats per minute, with a normal range between 60 to 100 beats per minute. However on some occasions the pace of a beating heart might increase, such that you can feel it is beating much harder. Or it may seem to be fluttering at times. This increase can be described as heart palpitations or a racing heart, and it usually arises from anxiety.
Anxiety can be defined as an unpleasant state of mental uneasiness, nervousness, apprehension and obsession or concern about some uncertain or sometimes unpleasant event. It is a distressing desire for a favorable outcome or an unnerving fear of unfavorable outcome of uncertainty.
Anxiety usually results from internal worries and fears that are extreme and arise when no visible threat is present. When a person is anxious, they usually feel tightness in the stomach. Some people however may feel the need to go to the bathroom.
Anxiety is our body’s Natural Response to Uncertainty!
If you are approached by a mean looking dog, you would certainly feel some amount of anxiety. Or if you are in a small vehicle stuck in between two trucks, OR if you are about to give a speech at your firm’s annual dinner, Or you had a pressing deadline, etc. The list goes on!
As bad as it may sound, anxiety however is a pretty normal, natural and regular feeling. It is a reaction to distress! You could say it is part of our body’s inbuilt Fight or Flight Response.
What are the Symptoms of Anxiety?
Anxiety symptoms arise when you come across uncertain situations. Usually, these symptoms are short lived. They leave after the situation has been well adapted to, or the anxiety trigger is removed. For example, you relax after that dreaded speech is done, Or when someone takes that mean looking dog away.
Anxiety results in numerous physical and mental responses, including:
- Increased heart rate;
- Constant apprehension and dread;
- Overreaction to situations;
- Fear, tending to horror;
- Disturbed gastrointestinal functions;
- Anorexia-loss of appetite;
- Increased sweating;
- Incoherent speech.
Again, majority of these symptoms are normal. Almost anyone would have experienced them in one way or the other at some point in time.
However, in some cases, these reactions are extreme, and they don’t go away on time. In such cases Anxiety symptoms recur and linger on.
Anxiety Disorders are not the usual kind of anxiety. They are not normal!
Even if the situation has passed and there is no potential danger for now, one may find themselves surrounded with heaps of worries and concerns. It further triggers anxiety symptoms in mild form or full blown form.
This pattern significantly affects the mental health of the person who goes through anxiety symptoms. Such phenomenon of anxiety symptoms falls in the category of Anxiety Disorders.
Anxiety Disorders poorly affect the quality of life
When one suffers from Anxiety Disorders, then anxiety can result:
- Without a trigger Or
- Be disproportionate to the trigger, that is, overblown relative to the trigger
Stress and anxiety have come to be regarded as the epidemic of our time. In India, 8.5% of the population have generalized anxiety disorder. 1% of the entire panic disorders in the world are located in India. In addition, anxiety disorders are more common in women than in men.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Some types of anxiety disorders can include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
- Panic Disorder.
- Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD).
- Separation Anxiety Disorder.
- Agoraphobia, etc.
Some perspective on Palpitations
Heart Palpitations are unusual awareness of the heartbeat. The heart can be felt racing, pounding, or even fluttering. Again, they are a normal signs exhibited when a person is anxious. Therefore, in this case, they are not a cause for an alarm.
However, there are other causes of heart palpitations, such as atrial fibrillation, that need immediate medical attention.
What does Ayurveda have to say about Anxiety and Heart Palpitations?
Anything that can cause anxiety will by extension, lead to heart palpitations. In Ayurveda, different scenarios can lead to anxiety.
Acute anxiety falls under Unmada, which translates to insanity or Psychiatric disorders. It is a derangement of bodily doshas that affect the nervine network of the body, leading to a distracted state of manas (mind). It is termed to be a health disorder associated with Majja Dhatu or Bone Marrow. This acute anxiety is caused by fear with and/or desire.
Transgression against knowledge or Crime against wisdom is one of the root causes of modern lifestyle disorders. And anxiety is one of them. When we end up desiring too much or extend our worries beyond our mental and physical capabilities, it starts to affect our balance and health. Some of the examples are:
- Instant gratification due to social media
- An unrestrained desire to control or micromanagement
- Fear of missing out – FOMO which is constantly pushed on every front we encounter
- A general fear of disease due to information overload and confusion from media
Vata imbalance causes anxiety and palpitations. It is linked with poor circulation within the body, which leads to undernourishment and stagnation.
Additionally, vata dosha imbalance leads to lightness, makes one ungrounded, leads to oldness, and roughness. All of these qualities exacerbate the anxiety symptoms. Excessive air and dryness of bodily fluids lead to problems with anxiety and palpitations.
Other Situations that can lead to Anxiety and/or Heart Palpitations
Generally, this conditions can also result from:
- Lifestyle triggers;
- Low blood pressure;
- Heart problems;
- Smoking tobacco;
- Situations that trigger fear or uncertainty;
- Binge consumption of alcohol, which may lead to ‘holiday heart.’
- Excessive consumption of chocolate may have similar effect as overindulgence in alcohol.
- Hypothyroidism, to name a few.
How to Tend to Anxiety and Palpitations?
- Medications: In modern medical practice, anxiety and heart palpitations can be tackled with antidepressant drugs such as Prozac. However, it is known that patients taking this drug become adapted to the drug, such that the drug is no longer effective. As a result, they will then have to take increased doses of the drug for it to keep being effective, and then keep taking it for extended periods.
- Diuretics: they help to reduce the risk of heart problems by inducing urination of excess fluid.
Tested Ayurvedic Remedies For Anxiety and Palpitations.
- Massage with essential oils.
- External Oleation with massages using bala oil, etc.
- The above should be followed with Internal Oleation so as to clear ama, using sesame oil, animal fats and oils.
Ayurvedic Herbs for Anxiety and Palpitations
There are multiple Ayurvedic herbs, which are also useful for tackling heart palpitations. These herbs can be used under prescription and guidance of an Ayurvedic Medical Practitioner:
- Kava kava;
- Brahmi – Bacopa Monnieri
- Passion flower;
- Gingko biloba;
- Gotu kola – Mandookaparni – Centella Asiatica
Lifestyle Changes to Reduce the adverse effects of Anxiety
- Take enough rest. It helps to calm the mind and keep it alert so that there is less risk of reacting extremely to situations.
- Take breathing exercises like pranayama, darsana, prasna, etc. These help to increase awareness.
- Mindfulness exercises like yoga can also help calm the mind and relieve stress, which is a major precursor of anxiety.
- Stay away from excessive alcohol and smoking.
- Avoid situations that you have identified as triggers for your anxiety, especially if you are suffering from an anxiety disorder.
- An approach that is quite the opposite to the above point is to actually increase time spent around the trigger. This causes you to be so adapted to the situation or object that you would no longer have the same reactions you used to have to it. Overexposure to the trigger makes it less of a threat, and more of a familiar object. By so doing, you recondition the associated reflex(es).
- With proper advise, discontinue use of medications that could be causing your anxiety or palpitations.
- Plan ahead as much as you can if you know you’ll encounter trigger situations or objects.
The best diet to calm down and prevent Heart Palpitations
To take care of your anxiety and reduce your heart palpitations:
- Follow a Vata balancing Diet that will provide warmth and nourishment. It will reduce the lightness and coldness associated with excessive anxiety. A vata diet grounds, soothes, and nurtures.
- Eat warm meals and at regular times. Be consistent with your eating schedule.
- Indulge in avocados, salmon, olive oil, nuts, coconut, whole milk, etc.
- Fruits like plum, melons, red grapes.
- Use spices such as ginger, coriander, cinnamon, and cardamom in your meals.
Anxiety is normal, and it is one of the things that keep us survive, being somewhat of a fight or flight response. Anxiety comes with palpitations, which are normal and wear away with time.
If however, the heart palpitations persist for a long time, consult with a medical practitioner to rule out the possibility of a more serious underlying condition like an heart disease.