Palpitations are feelings or sensations that your heart is pounding or racing. They can be felt in your chest, throat, or neck.
The heart's rhythm may be normal or abnormal when you have palpitations.
Normally the heart beats 60 - 100 times per minute. The rate may drop below 60 beats per minute in people who exercise routinely or take medicines that slow the heart.
If your heart rate is fast (over 100 beats per minute), this is called tachycardia. A heart rate slower than 60 is called bradycardia. An occasional extra heartbeat is known as extrasystole.
Palpitations are not serious most of the time. Sensations representing an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) may be more serious.
The following conditions make you more likely to have an abnormal heart rhythm:
Heart palpitations can be due to:
However, some palpitations are due to an abnormal heart rhythm, which may be caused by:
Once a serious cause has been ruled out by your doctor, try not to pay close attention to heart palpitations. This may cause stress. However, contact your doctor if you notice a sudden increase or a change in them.
If you have never had heart palpitations before, see your health care provider.
Call 911 or your local emergency number if you have:
Call your doctor right away if:
Your doctor or nurse will examine you and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms.
You may be asked:
An electrocardiogram will be done.
In the emergency room, you will be connected to a heart monitor.
If your doctor finds you have an abnormal heart rhythm, other tests may be done. This may include:
Adopting a healthy lifestyle, including a heart healthy diet and regular exercise, may help prevent palpitations.
Heartbeat sensations; Irregular heartbeat; Palpitations; Heart pounding or racing
Goldman L. Approach to the patient with possible cardiovascular disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 48.
Updated by: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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