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Explaining affairs of the heart; health matters.

Byline: Dr MIKE KNAPTON

LOVE it or loathe it, you just can't escape the fact that today is Valentine's Day. I'm sure it's only in the last few years it's become unavoidable: cards, chocolates, candles - you can even pay someone to write a poem for the one you love.

Although I do remember when February 14 passed by without a whisper, I think at the moment we could all do with a bit of cheering up. And what better way than to enjoy a bit of romance?

Of course, the other thing I like about Valentine's Day is that it gives me a great excuse to talk about my favourite subject, the heart, and in particular two phrases we hear a lot at this time of year: "my heart skipped a beat" and "my heart was racing".

These are both very exciting if they're happening to you because the person of your dreams has sent you a card, but can be very frightening if they seem to happen for no reason whatsoever. We usually hear them talked about as palpitations, but what does that actually mean?

Palpitations are not actually an illness, it's just the word we use when you can feel or are aware of your heart beat, like when you've sprinted for the bus or you're nervous.

Your heart may be beating normally, quickly, slowly or irregularly, or sometimes it may feel like it's skipping beats.

Anxiety, stress, tiredness, caffeine, smoking and too much alcohol can all cause palpitations.

They can also happen because you have what's called an ectopic beat. Put simply, this is an extra beat caused by an extra electrical charge being released.

Ectopic beats are very common and don't damage your heart..

Avoiding coffee, cigarettes and alcohol and reducing stress will help reduce them.

Although palpitations and ectopic beats can feel unpleasant, they're usually harmless and don't mean anything is wrong with your heart. However, they can sometimes be a sign there is an underlying problem with your heart so it's always best to go to your GP and get them checked out.

For more information visit bhf.org.uk. Call NHS Wales Direct on 0845 6 47 with health concerns
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 14, 2009
Words:367
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