What are Heart Palpitations?

Heart palpitations refer to the unusual sensations that feel like your heart is beating abnormally. They may be felt like an accelerated heartbeat, a flutter or a missed heartbeat. The common sites for experiencing symptoms of heart palpitations are the chest, neck or throat. 

Causes of Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations may be caused due to both heart and non-heart related issues. The common non-heart related causes of palpitations include:

  • Intensive physical activity
  • Stress, fear and anxiety
  • Health conditions like thyroid disease, low blood sugar level, anaemia, dehydration and fever
  • Excessive intake of alcohol, caffeine and nicotine
  • Certain medications such as asthma inhalers, diet pills, decongestants, and thyroid drugs
  • Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, menstruation or menopause
  • Abnormal electrolyte levels
  • Certain nutritional and herbal supplements
  • Intake of certain foods that are rich in monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium or nitrates

The heart-related causes of palpitations include cardiac diseases such as coronary artery disease, heart valve or muscle problems, prior heart attack and heart failure.

Diagnosis of Heart Palpitations

Your cardiologist will enquire about your medical history, symptoms, diet and lifestyle, current medications and perform a physical examination.

Your doctor may order the following: 

  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram that can be performed while you are at rest or exercising 
  • Heart ultrasound (echocardiogram). 
  • Holter monitoring and event recording, which involve wearing specialised devices which record the electrical activity of your heart 
  • Blood tests

Treatment and Management of Heart Palpitations

The treatment of heart palpitations depends on their cause.

  • You may be advised on relaxation techniques, Yoga and aromatherapy to release stress and anxiety.
  • You should avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
  • Limit your intake of cough/cold medications and herbal/nutritional supplements.
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle.
  • Your doctor may prescribe medications if you have an abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia).
  • Sometimes, you may be referred to an electrophysiologist, a doctor specialising in heart rhythms.

Prognosis for Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations are usually not fatal and subside on their own. However, you must be vigilant and visit a doctor if you notice any unusual symptoms along with the heart palpitations like chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or fainting as they could indicate an underlying serious heart condition.


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