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The American Heart Association

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National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

www.nhlbi.nih.gov

Heart Palpitations

Signs &

Symptoms

Causes

Treatment

Questions
to Ask

Self-Care /

Prevention

Palpitations can be felt in the chest, throat, or neck. With them, it feels like the heart is pounding, racing, and/or fluttering. It can feel like the heart has skipped a beat.

Close up image of man holding his chest in pain with an illustration of a heart and a heart beat.

Most of the time, palpitations are not a serious problem. Common causes include:

•  Anxiety. Fear. Stress. Hyperventilation.

•  Caffeine. Diet pills. Nicotine. Drugs.

•  Exercise.

•  Medicines. Examples are beta-blockers, some asthma and cold medicines, and thyroid pills.

Other causes are:

•  An arrhythmia (heart rate or rhythm disorder).

•  Mitral valve prolapse (MVP). This is a heart valve problem. It may be treated with medicine. It is not usually a serious condition.

•  Anemia.

•  Hyperthyroidism.

•  Low blood sugar.

Image of doctor holding a glass shape heart.

Treatment depends on the cause.

•  If palpitations occur with exercise, stop the activity. Rest. When you exercise again, gradually increase how long and how intense you do the activity.

•  To relieve stress and anxiety, do relaxation exercises.

•  Limit or avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.

•  Don’t take cold/allergy medicines. Don’t take appetite suppressants.

•  Call your doctor if rest doesn’t help or if palpitations occur again and again.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.

 

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