A heart surgeon explains how stress can cause a “skipped” heartbeat.
Keep in mind that what may feel like your heart skipping a beat isn’t necessarily actually that at all, but rather, the next beat occurs so close to the previous one, that this leaves a gap before the next beat after that, creating the illusion that your heart literally skipped a beat.
“Stress causes increased heart rate and blood pressure by increasing the release of adrenalin and adrenalin-like substances in the body,” says Alvaro Waissbluth, MD, an Ohio-based heart surgeon board certified in interventional cardiology and cardiovascular diseases, and founder of Eat Tank, an educational nutrition initiative that provides simple tools and practical knowledge for better understanding food.
Dr. Waissbluth continues, “Adrenalin increases heart rate and blood pressure which can lead to abnormal or fast heart rhythms along with the sensation of skipped beats and palpitations.”
Adrenalin and like-hormones are the so-called “fight or flee” hormones. They prepare your body for an encounter with danger.
The body, however, doesn’t know the difference between the dangers that primitive man had to face (an encounter with a wild boar) and the “dangers” that industrialized people must face (opening the letter that has your mammogram results).
The chemical fear response in the body is the same in either case. To put it in layman’s terms, these hormones can trip things up, leading to a momentary erratic heart rhythm, what is often called a palpitation, or a thumping or fluttering heartbeat.
There’s a lot of truth to that age-old saying, “My heart skipped a beat when I found out I owed so much in taxes!”
Dr. Waissbluth is affiliated with Atrium Medical Center and has been in practice for 25+ years. Visit Eat Tank.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.