Heart Palpitations: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

heart palpitations

What is Heart Palpitations?

We examined heart palpitations symptoms, causes, treatments, including risk factors, complications and diagnosis. Heart palpitations occurs when you feel your heart fluttering, beating fast, pounding, or skipping a beat. This condition can be triggered by exercise, stress, medication or a medical condition.

This cardiac condition can be disturbing, but they’re usually harmless. However in some cases, they may point to a more serious heart condition, such as an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) that might require treatment.

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Heart palpitations can occur when you are active or even at rest. It can be felt in your throat, neck, or chest and can occur when you’re active or at rest.

Symptoms of Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations can feel like your heart is:

  • Skipping beats
  • Fluttering rapidly
  • Beating too fast
  • Pounding
  • Flip-flopping

When to see a doctor

Consult your doctor immediately if you are experiencing:

  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Pain in the chest
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting

Palpitations that are uncommon and last only a few seconds usually don’t need to be evaluated. See your doctor if you have a history of heart disease and you are frequently experiencing palpitations.

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Causes of Heart Palpitations

In some cases, the cause of your heart palpitations can’t be found. Common causes include:

  • Strenuous exercise
  • Stress, anxiety or panic attacks
  • Intake of stimulants, including caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, amphetamines, and cold and cough medications that contain pseudoephedrine
  • Fever
  • Hormonal changes linked with menstruation, pregnancy or menopause
  • Problems with thyroid hormone

Heart palpitations can be a sign of a serious problem or an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). Arrhythmias might cause a very fast heart rate (tachycardia), an unusually slow heart rate (bradycardia) or an irregular heart rhythm.

Risk factors

Risk factors for developing heart palpitations include:

  • High level stress
  • Anxiety disorder or panic attacks
  • Pregnancy
  • Medications that contain stimulants such as cold or asthma medications
  • Have an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism)
  • Have other heart problems


In some cases, an underlying heart condition may be responsible for your heart palpitations. When this happens, there may be possible complications including:

  • If palpitations are caused by atrial fibrillation, blood can accumulate and cause clots to form. Blood clots can breaks loose and block a brain artery, leading to a stroke.
  • If you have a congenital heart disease, it can cause your heart to beat rapidly, leading to a drop in your blood pressure. This can cause you to faint.
  • Heart failure. This occurs if your heart is pumping ineffectively for an extended period due atrial fibrillation.
  • Cardiac arrest. Palpitations can be caused by severe arrhythmias in rare cases. This can cause your heart to stop beating.

READ ALSO: Everything to Know About Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Diagnosing Heart Palpitations

Your doctor will use a stethoscope to listen to your heart. He or she will check for signs of medical conditions that can cause heart palpitations, such as a swollen thyroid gland.

Tests that may be performed to confirm diagnosis include:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG).This is a noninvasive test that is performed either while you rest or during exercise. It involves your technician placing leads on your chest that record the electrical impulses that make your heart beat. This test helps your doctor detect irregularities in your heart’s rhythm and structure that can cause palpitations.
  • Holter monitoring.Holter monitoring is used to detect heart palpitations that aren’t found during ECG exam. This is a portable device you wear to record a continuous ECG, usually for 24 to 72 hours, while you keep a diary of when you feel palpitations.
  • Event recording.Your doctor might recommend an event recorder if you don’t have irregular heart rhythms while you wear a Holter monitor. You wear an event recorder as much as possible throughout the day and push a button on a recording device to indicate when you have symptoms.
  • This is a noninvasive test which includes an ultrasound of your chest, shows detailed images of your heart’s structure and function.


Heart palpitations may not require treatment, unless your doctor finds that you have a heart condition. Your doctor might recommend ways for you to avoid the triggers that cause your palpitations. If your palpitations are caused by a condition, such as an arrhythmia, treatment will focus on correcting the condition.

Lifestyle and home remedies

To treat palpitations at home, you have to avoid the triggers that cause your symptoms.

  • Avoid stimulants.You need to avoid stimulants like nicotine, caffeine, some cold medicines and energy drinks can cause your heart beat to beat quickly or irregularly.
  • Avoid illegal drugs.Palpitations can be caused by intake of certain drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines.
  • Reduce stress.Reduce your stress level by trying relaxation techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing or yoga.



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