Top Doctors: 5 facts about a racing heart

Louise Spadaro, M.D., checks blood pressure during a Louise Spadaro, M.D., checks blood pressure during a healthy heart check for Gloria Aluttto of New Hyde Park in her office located at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn. (June 18, 2012) Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine

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When your pulse quickens, it's easy to fear that something's wrong.

There might be nothing wrong, but a racing heart, felt in your wrist, could be a sign that you need medical care -- maybe even right away.

Here's what you should know:

1. A RACING HEARTBEAT MAY BE PERFECTLY NORMAL

"Not every racing heart is an abnormality," said Dr. Louise Spadaro, a cardiologist at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn. "It may simply reflect the body's normal response to a stimulus or stress. If you're excited, scared or nervous, that will naturally drive the heart rate up."

Still, if you feel your heart is racing, "the most important thing to do is to sit or lie down," said Dr. Rohan D. Bhansali, director of clinical cardiology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park. "Racing heartbeats can occasionally be a prelude to fainting, even if they are not due to a change in heart rhythm."

If you're driving, he said, pull over if you feel palpitations until the symptoms go away.

2. SYMPTOMS THAT SHOULD SEND YOU TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM

Seek emergency care immediately if your racing heartbeat comes with such symptoms as lightheadedness, fainting, chest pain, severe shortness of breath or an inability to breathe, Spadaro said. You should also go to the emergency room if you can't lie flat because you feel as if you're filling up with fluid, she said.

In some cases, though, it's OK to simply get in touch with your physician.

"If the palpitations are otherwise well tolerated and there are no other symptoms, you should notify your doctor so that an electrocardiogram can be done, especially if this is the first time it's happened," said Dr. Sei Iwai, a professor of clinical medicine and director of the Complex Arrhythmia Ablation Program at Stony Brook University Medical Center.

3. MANY CONDITIONS CAN CAUSE A RAPID PULSE

Bhansali noted that fever, infection, dehydration and low blood sugar are among the possible causes of a racing heartbeat. "Less commonly, it can be due to something that requires urgent medical attention, such as a blood clot in the lungs or an abnormal heart rhythm," he said.

An abnormal heart rhythm, also known as an arrhythmia, can have a variety of causes. A common one is an electrical glitch in the heart. This can cause atrial fibrillation, a condition that older people often have and that can cause the heartbeat to spike. Electrical glitches also can lead to several types of supraventricular tachycardia, a name for rapid heartbeats that are based in the upper part of the heart.

4 SOMETIMES SELF-TREATMENT WORKS

People with certain types of rapid heartbeats that are based in the upper chambers of the heart may have options to slow down their pulse, Spadaro said. They can throw cold water on their face, massage their neck to stimulate a crucial nerve, or bear down really hard, as if they're trying to have a bowel movement.

However, "always ask your doctor first," she cautioned. "These maneuvers only work for very specific types of upper chamber tachycardias it could be dangerous to not seek the type of medical help you may need right away." The techniques won't relieve all kinds of rapid heartbeats, including those caused by atrial fibrillation, Spadaro said.

5 MOST RACING HEARTS CAN BE SLOWED

"For the majority of types of rapid heartbeats, we can abolish them and make them go away," Spadaro said. "And for a good number of them, we don't necessarily make them go away, but we make them less pronounced, less symptomatic and maybe decrease the frequency with which they occur."

In many cases, doctors treat racing heartbeats by dealing with the underlying issue -- dehydration or low blood sugar, for instance -- or with medication, Bhansali said.

In some cases, doctors can fix electrical malfunctions in the heart through a procedure called radio-frequency ablation, which uses heat to destroy malfunctioning tissue. "The procedure is safe, highly effective and generally requires no long-term medication use," he said.

To be effectively treated, of course, you first need to be correctly diagnosed. And Iwai said that doesn't always happen.

For instance, he said, people may be diagnosed as simply having anxiety when they actually suffer from irregular heartbeats. "In young patients with no heart disease, this is often a supraventricular tachycardia, which is almost always curable," he said.

 

Cardiologists

 

This is the first installment of a 26-week series in which Newsday presents Castle Connolly's list of top LI doctors.


Dr. Larry Altschul

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540 Union Blvd.

West Islip

631-669-2555


Dr. Maliakal Joseph Anto

8 Greenfield Rd.

Syosset

516-496-7900


Dr. Rohan Dilip Bhansali

Oncology Building

27-05 76th Ave. 4th Fl.

New Hyde Park

@Newsday

718-470-7330


Dr. Mark G. Borek

Stony Brook Cardiology

101 Nicolls Rd.

HSC Bldg. Fl. 16, Rm 080

East Setauket

631-444-1066


Dr. William J. Breen

43 Crossways Park Dr.

Woodbury

516-938-3000


Dr. David L. Brown

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Stony Brook Univ. Med. Center

Div. Cardiology

Health Sci. Ctr. T16-080

Stony Brook

631-444-9970


Dr. Kul Chadda

South Nassau Comm. Hosp.

Electrophysiology Svcs.

1 Healthy Way

Oceanside

516-632-3418


Dr. Mathew T. Chengot

Amityville Heart Ctr.

129 Broadway

Amityville

631-598-3434


Dr. Michael D. Chesner

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325 W. Park Ave.

Long Beach

516-432-2004


Dr. Marvin Cramer

225 Community Dr., Ste. 130

Great Neck

516-504-0474


Dr. Ronald D'Agostino

1129 Northern Blvd., Ste. 408

Manhasset

516-627-2121


Dr. John Dervan

220 Belle Mead Rd., Ste. A

East Setauket

631-941-2273


Dr. Robert J. Dresdale

225 Community Dr.

Ste. 130

Great Neck

516-504-0474


Dr. Ari M. Ezratty

100 Port Washington Blvd.

Roslyn

516-570-6907


Dr. Thomas Falco

1279 E. Main St.

Riverhead

631-727-2100


Dr. Frederick S. Fein

120 Mineola Blvd., Ste. 500

Mineola

516-663-4480


Dr. Aaron Gindea

800 Community Dr.

Manhasset

516-627-6622


Dr. Louis W. Gleckel

2 Ohio Dr.

Lake Success

516-622-6060


Dr. Steven Mark Goldberg

1010 Northern Blvd., Ste. 110

Great Neck

516-390-2430


Dr. Henry Esteban Gomez

Long Island Cardiovascular

1129 Northen Blvd., Ste. 408

Manhasset

516-627-2121


Dr. Mark A. Goodman

975 Stewart Ave.

Garden City

516-222-8610


Dr. Stephen J. Green

Dept. Cardiology

300 Community Dr.

Manhasset

516-562-4100


Dr. Steven M. Greenberg

Arrhythmia Center

100 Port Washington Blvd.

Roslyn

516-562-6672


Dr. Ronnie Hershman

1 Hollow Lane, Ste. 103

Lake Success

516-869-5400


Dr. Rajiv Jauhar

270-05 76 Ave., 4th floor

New Hyde Park

718-470-7330


Dr. Mansoor Jelveh

875 Old Country Rd., Ste. 102

Plainview

516-935-8877


Dr. Allen Jeremias

Stony Brook Univ. Med. Ctr.

26 Research Way

East Setauket

631-444-1069


Dr. Barry M. Kaplan

LI Jewish Med. Ctr.

Div. Cardiology

270-05 76th Ave.

New Hyde Park

718-470-7330


Dr. Steven M. Kobren

NYU Great Neck Medical

488 Great Neck Rd.

Great Neck

516-482-6747


Dr. Jerome Koss

3003 New Hyde Park Rd.

Ste. 406

New Hyde Park

516-358-5401


Dr. Justine S. Lachmann

120 Mineola Blvd., Ste. 500

Mineola

516-663-4481


Dr. Michael A. Masciello

540 Union Blvd.

West Islip

631-669-2555


Dr. Michael A. Matilsky

Three Village Cardiology

210 Belle Mead Rd.

East Setauket

631-689-1400


Dr. Guy L. Mintz

287 Northern Blvd., Ste. 211

Great Neck

516-482-3401


Dr. Thomas A. Nicosia

1615 Northern Blvd., Ste. 301

Manhasset

516-627-9355


Dr. Thomas W. Pappas

155 Northern Blvd., Ste 330

Manhasset

516-726-7575


Dr. Michael Poon

Stony Brook Health Sci. Ctr.

Level 4, Rm. 120

Stony Brook

631-444-5400


Dr. Philip D. Ragno

1401 Franklin Ave.

Garden City

516-877-2626


Dr. Edward V. Rutkovsky

2035 Lakeville Rd., Ste. 101

New Hyde Park

516-328-9797


Dr. Carl Schreiber

70 Glen St.

Glen Cove

516-484-7893


Dr. Steven Shahram Shayani

200 Old Country Rd., Ste. 278

Mineola

516-877-0977


Dr. Richard A. Shlofmitz

100 Port Washington Blvd.

Ste. 105

Roslyn

516-390-9640


Dr. Hal A. Skopicki

Univ. Physicians at Stony Brook

3001 Expressway Dr. N.,

Ste. 200B

Islandia

631-444-9600


Dr. Sergio Sokol

Five Towns Heart Imaging

650 Central Ave., Ste. K

Cedarhurst

516-804-8590


Dr. Louise A. Spadaro

St. Francis Hospital

VIZZA Bldg., Rm. 101

100 Port Washington Blvd.

Roslyn

516-562-6653


Dr. William Tenet

1155 Northern Blvd., Ste. 330

Manhasset

516-627-4330


Dr. Ira L. Weg

158 Hempstead Ave.

Lynbrook

516-593-3541


Dr. Marc Weinberg

West Carver Med. Assocs.

200 W. Carver St., Ste. 8

Huntington

631-421-0020


Dr. Steven M. Zeldis

200 Old Country Rd., Ste. 278

Mineola

516-877-0977


CARDIAC ELECTROPHYSIOLOGY

Dr. Sei Iwai

285 Sills Rd., Ste. 12-C

East Patchogue

631-444-3575


Dr. Ram L. Jadonath

300 Community Dr.

Manhasset

516-562-2300


Dr. Joseph H. Levine

100 Port Washington Blvd.

Roslyn

516-622-1011


Dr. Eric J. Rashba

Stony Brook Univ. Med. Ctr.

Cardiology

101 Nicolls Rd.

HSC Bldg. 16th Fl., Rm. 080

Stony Brook

631-444-3575

Interventional Cardiology


Dr. Meyer H. Abittan

St. Francis Hospital

The Heart Center

100 Port Washington Blvd.

Ste. G-03

Roslyn

516-627-1155


Dr. Andrew D. Berke

100 Port Washington Blvd.

Roslyn

516-365-2211


Dr. Andrew Lituchy

100 Port Washington Blvd.

Ste. G-05

Roslyn

516-365-4888


Dr. Lawrence Ong

North Shore Univ. Hosp.

Dept. Cardiology

300 Community Dr.

Manhasset

516-562-4100


Dr. George A. Petrossian

1405 Old Northern Blvd. 1st fl.

Roslyn

516-484-6777

 

How they were picked

 

Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. is a health-care research and information company founded in 1991 by a former medical college, board chairman and president to help guide consumers to America's top doctors and top hospitals. Castle Connolly's established survey and research process, under the direction of a doctor, involves tens of thousands of top doctors and the medical leadership of leading hospitals.

Castle Connolly's physician-led team of researchers follows a rigorous screening process to select top doctors on both the national and regional levels. Its online nominations process -- located at castleconnolly.com/ nominations -- is open to all licensed physicians in America who are able to nominate physicians in any medical specialty and in any part of the country, as well as indicate whether the nominated physician is, in their opinion, among the best in their region in their medical specialty or among the best in the nation in their medical specialty.

Careful screening of doctors' educational and professional experience is essential before final selection is made among those physicians most highly regarded by their peers. The result -- Castle Connolly identifies the top doctors in America and provides the consumer with detailed information about their education, training and special expertise in their paperback guides, national and regional magazine "Top Doctors" features and online directories. Doctors do not and cannot pay to be selected and profiled as Castle Connolly Top Doctors. (Newsday is not part of the selection process.)

Physicians selected for inclusion in this "Top Doctors" feature may also appear as Regional Top Doctors online at castleconnolly. com, or in one of Castle Connolly's Top Doctors guides, such as America's Top Doctors® or America's Top Doctors® for Cancer.

 

To see the whole list . . .

 

Who else is on the list of Top Doctors? More than 6,000 listings are in the New York Metro Area edition of "Top Doctors," published by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. The softcover list price is $34.95. For more information, go to castleconnolly.com, or call 800-399-DOCS.

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