Heart palpitations are the sensation that your heart is beating too hard, too fast, too slow, skipping a beat, or fluttering. Usually harmless, heart palpitations can happen any time and you may feel them in your chest or neck. It becomes important to contact your doctor if your palpitations worsen or if you have a history of heart disease and experience them frequently.
Causes of heart palpitations
Though heart palpitations can be unsettling, they are not a cause for concern. Less than half of people who get heart palpitations develop an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).
Several things can cause heart palpitations, including:
- anxiety, fear or stress
- vigorous exercise
- hormone changes caused by pregnancy, menstruation or menopause
- low potassium
- low blood sugar
- certain medications such as decongestants, asthma medicines and diet pills
- alcohol, caffeine and nicotine use
- cocaine and amphetamine use
When to call your doctor
You should make an appointment with your doctor if as soon as possible if:
- your heart palpitations are worrisome
- your heart palpitations get worse
- you regularly experience heart palpitations and have a history of cardiovascular disease
Your doctor may recommend wearing a Holter monitor or undergoing an electrocardiogram to help diagnose the cause of your palpitations.
Call 911 or go to the emergency room if heart palpitations occur with chest pain, severe shortness of breath, severe dizziness, excessive sweating or fainting.
Lifestyle and heart palpitations
A change in lifestyle may help you control your heart palpitations:
- Try meditation or yoga to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol.
- Stop smoking.
- Don't use illegal drugs.
If making changes to your lifestyle doesn't help, reach out to your doctor, as you may need medical treatment.
The Christ Hospital Health Network is home to the largest heart rhythm program in Greater Cincinnati. Learn more about how this program provides specialized treatment to people with arrythmia and other heart rhythm disorders.