Common Health Problems  »  General Health Conditions


Signs & Symptoms

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.


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

  1. Anxiety. Fear. Stress. Hyperventilation.

  2. Caffeine. Diet pills. Nicotine. Drugs.

  3. Exercise.

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

Other causes are:

  1. An arrhythmia. This is any disorder of heart rate or rhythm.

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

  3. Anemia.

  4. Hyperthyroidism.

  5. Low blood sugar.

Self-Care / Prevention

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

  2. To relieve stress and anxiety, do relaxation exercises.

  3. Limit or avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.

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

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

Questions to Ask

With palpitations, is any heart attack warning sign present?

Do any of these problems occur?

  1. Fainting. Feeling faint or dizzy. Cool, clammy skin.

  2. Pulse of 150 or more beats per minute.

  3. New onset of a very irregular heartbeat and a history of a heart condition.

  4. Within 24 hours, palpitations occur 3 or more times. Each one lasts at least 10 minutes.

With palpitations, are any of these problems present?

  1. Signs of hyperthyroidism.

  2. Symptoms persist for hours or days.

  3. Heart disease risk factors.

  4. A person with an arrhythmia has new or worse symptoms.

Treatment depends on the cause.