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What Causes Heart Palpitations?

Medically reviewed by
Dr.Ritu Gupta
MD.General Medicine

Heart palpitations are pounding, fluttering, racing or skipping of heart beats.

It is the awareness of your own heartbeats which normally one cannot feel.

You can feel these palpitations in your chest, throat or neck any time, even if you’re are resting or doing normal activities. These feelings normally do not last long and you must not worry because heart palpitations are caused by things you can control, you may be able to prevent them. However, sometimes they can be related to an abnormal heart rhythm which needs medical attention.

Heart palpitations can have these causes:

●Intense emotions such as stress, anxiety, stress or panic

can trigger the release of hormones that speed up your heartbeat.

● Exercises

a brisk run or intense cycling can cause your heart to beat faster if you have not worked out in a while and you're out of condition.


can cause you to have heart palpitations because the amount of blood circulating in your body increases to support your baby.

● Caffeine

is a stimulant that raises your heart rate.

● Nicotine

the addictive chemical in cigarettes and other tobacco products can raise your blood pressure and speeds up your heart rate. Palpitations can also be a symptom of nicotine and other drug withdrawal but these stop within 3 to 4 weeks after you quit.

●Hormone changes

during period, pregnancy or menopause can boost heart rate.

● Fever

with every 1 degree rise in body temperature, there is increase of heart rate by 10 beats per minute. So fever again is an important associate of palpitations.

● Over-the-counter medicines

like antibiotics, antifungal medicines, antipsychotic drugs, asthma inhalers, cough and cold medicines, diet pills, high blood pressure medicines and thyroid pills may cause palpitations as a side effect.

●Low Blood Sugar

Skipping a meal causes release of stress hormones like adrenaline which speeds up your heart rate.

●Overactive Thyroid Gland

can speed up your heartbeat and can lead to atrial fibrillation at times, an abnormal activity of heart.

● Heart rhythm problems

due to an irregular heart rhythm called an Arrhythmia causes palpitations. Atrial fibrillation or Flutter or ectopics happens when the heart's upper chambers called the atria start ectopics instead of beating normally. Ventricular Tachycardia is a fast heart rate due to faulty signals in the heart's lower pumping chambers called the ventricles.

● Alcohol

if you drink a lot, you might feel your heart beating faster or fluttering.

●Cocaine and Other Street Drugs

like amphetamines, cocaine and ecstasy are dangerous to the heart. These can boosts blood pressure, raise heart rate and damage the heart muscle.

● When should I worry about heart palpitations?

Heart palpitations are usually not dangerous if physiological factors like exercise or emotions or fever etc can be controlled.

But if you are feeling dizzy, confused or lightheaded; having chest pain or tightness in your chest, neck, jaw, arm(s) or upper back; unusual sweating; trouble breathing visit a doctor immediately. The doctor will check your medical history, symptoms and medications you take. (S)he may conduct tests such as blood and urine tests; Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG); stress test; chest X-ray; echocardiogram (heart ultrasound). You may also need to see an electrophysiologist (a doctor who specializes in abnormal heart rhythms).

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