Is it a Heart Attack or is it Dinner?

With heart disease the leading cause of death in the US, people are rightly concerned if their heartbeat feels “funny” at any time. Heart palpitations, when the heart skips a beat, flutters, or beats too hard or too fast, can occur for many reasons, only some of which require medical attention.

Many people feel heart palpitations after eating, and what they ate — not heart disease — may be the root of the problem.

The following foods and drinks are known to trigger heart palpitations:

  1. Alcohol commonly causes heart palpitations, particularly a racing heartbeat.
  2. Caffeine, which is not only found in coffee, but also in soda, chocolate, and tea, has also been found to cause heart palpitations.
  3. Medications, which are often taken with meals, can also raise one’s heart rate. In particular, decongestants, asthma inhalers, diet pills, and some allergy medications have been associated with heart palpitations. Medications that contain phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine are particular triggers.
  4. Certain herbal supplements taken around meal times, such as ginseng, ephedra, hawthorn, valerian, and bitter orange, have been known to affect heart rate.
  5. Many people will have a cigarette before or after a meal, triggering heart palpitations.
  6. Heavy meals, loaded with sugar, fat, sodium, MSG, or carbohydrates, bring on heart abnormalities as well.

If you find that you often have heart palpitations after a meal, and the palpitations go away soon afterwards, you should consider keeping a food diary in order to find out if something you are eating is causing the problem.

While avoiding palpitation triggers is wise, so is seeing a doctor to rule out anything more serious. Your healthcare provider will be able assess whether simple dietary changes will rectify the problem, or whether they are symptomatic of heart disease.

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