Heart Palpitations

A heart palpitation is the feeling of heart racing, pounding or fluttering in the chest. You may also feel a “skip” or an “extra” beat. You may become overly aware of your heartbeat. This sensation can also be felt in the neck, throat, or chest. It’s also possible that your heart rhythm can change during the palpitations. Most heart palpitations are harmless and resolve on their own without treatment. Others may indicate an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia).

Causes of Heart Palpitations

Although there are several causes for heart palpitations, certain traits, conditions or habits may raise your risk for the condition. These are known as risk factors and include:

Non-modifiable risk factors: These factors are irreversible and cannot be changed. The more of these risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing heart palpitations:

  • Pregnancy

Modifiable risk factors: These factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle changes.

  • Excessive amounts of alcohol consumption over the years.
  • Excessive amount of caffeine or other stimulants.
  • Extreme emotional stress.
  • Extreme physical exertion
  • Long history of cigarette smoking and/or drug use
  • Dehydration: when you use or lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn't have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions.
  • Certain cold and cough mediations (i.e. nasal decongestants, cough suppressants, expectorants, antihistamines, among others).

Other conditions that may contribute to development of heart palpitations:

  • Thyroid disease: a condition that is caused by the over or under function of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is an essential organ for producing thyroid hormones, which maintains the body’s metabolism.
  • Heart surgery
  • Heart valve disease
  • Heart arrhythmias

Symptoms of Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations may make your heart feel a certain way. Some of the most common symptoms include the following:

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

Diagnosis of Heart Palpitations

For heart palpitations, your doctor will listen to your heart using a stethoscope to identify if a heart murmur is present. Your doctor is also likely to look for signs of medical conditions that can cause heart palpitations, such as a swollen thyroid gland. If your doctor suspects your palpitations are caused by an arrhythmia or other heart condition, tests might include:

Treatment of Heart Palpitations

Unless your doctor finds that you have a heart condition, heart palpitations seldom require treatment. Instead, 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. Some treatment options include:

Lifestyle changes


  • Antiarrhythmic medications will help control your heart’s rhythm.
  • Anticoagulants “blood-thinners” will help treat, prevent and reduce blood clots.
  • Beta blockers will help reduce your blood pressure.
  • Calcium channel blockers will help relax blood vessels and increase the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart while also reducing the heart's workload.

Medical and Surgical procedures