Why does my heart beat fast when I am hungry?

Monday October 19 2020
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By Dr Vincent Karuhanga

Whenever I am hungry, my heart pounds heavily. Although this is a recent development, it is getting me worried. Do I have a heart problem or high blood pressure? –Kyla
Dear Kyla,
A number of people equate the noticeable pounding of the heart with high blood pressure, although this may be caused by other conditions including stress and anxiety, heart conditions, anaemia (lack of blood), thyroid problems as well as high blood pressure, among others.

When you take long without eating, the resulting drop in blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) will lead to the production of the fear, fight and flight hormones (adrenaline) leading to, among other symptoms, sweating, trembling and pounding of the heart. 

For example, if a diabetic takes long to eat or when they overdose themselves with antidiabetic drugs, they will not only get hungry, sweat, tremble, but will also experience palpitations due to hypoglycaemia.
If you change your eating habits, especially in trying to manage obesity (eating minimal or no sugary foods), over exercising, have liver, pancreas or kidney problems, you may be prone to very low blood sugar ending up with palpitations, apart from other symptoms.
Visit your doctor to rule out a medical problem. If you are found to be okay, adjust your lifestyle to avoid lapsing into serious hypoglycemia when hungry.

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