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Heart Palpitations: What Causes Them

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Oct 06, 2012
4.8 / 5(4 Ratings)
Quick Bites

  • Anxiety, fear, or stress could make your heart go pounding.
  • A vigorous activity may cause your heart to beat too fast.
  • Heart palpitations may indicate an underlying medical condition.
  • Hormonal changes also are a strong indicator of palpitations.

More

Heart palpitations are the feelings or sensations that your heart is pounding, fluttering or racing. Stress, exercise, medication, or rarely a medical condition can lead your heart to palpitate. When your heart palpitates, you may become overly aware about your heartbeat and the sensation may also be felt in the neck, throat, or chest.

Usually, heart palpitations aren’t to be worried about and are harmless. However, sensations representing an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) may be more serious and may require treatment.

Causes of Heart Palpitations

Causes of Heart Palpitations

Most heart palpitations go away on their own and rarely indicate signs of a heart problem. There can be various reasons for your heart to palpitate and it rarely happens that the cause of palpitations can’t be found.

Strong Emotions- Anxiety, fear, or stress could make your heart go pounding or racing. These feelings are also exhibited by a person having a panic attack.

Energetic Physical Activity- When you carry out an intense activity, your heart may feel like it’s beating too hard or too fast. This doesn’t mean it’s not functioning normally. A vigorous activity can also cause occasional extra heartbeats.

Medical Conditions- Sometimes heart palpitations may indicate an underlying medical condition. Your heart beats faster and stronger than usual in these conditions. These medical conditions include- an overactive thyroid, a low blood sugar level, anaemia, low blood pressure, fever, and dehydration.

Hormonal Changes- Pregnancy, menstruation, and perimenopausal periods bring along hormonal changes that may cause heart palpitations. The palpitations will likely improve or go away as these conditions go away or change. You should note that some palpitations that occur during pregnancy may occur due to anaemia.

What Causes Heart Palpitations

Medicines- Many medications stimulate the heart beat, triggering palpitations. They can also cause your heart to beat a few extra times. Such medicines include:

  • Asthma drugs that are inhaled
  • Medications used for the treatment of underactive thyroid. Taking too much of these medicines can cause an overactive thyroid and lead to palpitations.
  • Drugs that prevent arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms) can sometimes give rise to other irregular heart rhythms.
  • Over-the-counter medicines such as decongestants and some herbal and nutritional supplements can also cause palpitations because they act as stimulants. Caffeine, nicotine (found in tobacco), alcohol, and illegal drugs (such as cocaine and amphetamines) also can cause palpitations.


Heart Problems- Heart palpitations are symptoms of arrhythmias. Palpitations are more likely to be related to an arrhythmia if you have:

  • Had a heart attack or are at risk for one.
  • Coronary heart disease (CHD) or risk factors for CHD.
  • Other heart problems, such as heart failure, heart valve disease, or heart muscle disease.
  • Abnormal electrolyte levels. Electrolytes are minerals, such as potassium and sodium, found in blood and body fluids. They're vital for normal health and functioning of the body.


Some people are at an increased risk of experiencing heart palpitations. People with anxiety, or stress, people who ingest certain medicines, have medical conditions like an overactive thyroid, heart ailments like arrhythmias, previous heart attack or heart muscle disease should be careful about their heartbeat going rapid and should seek prompt medical attention for any changes in their heart rate.

Image courtesy: Getty

Read more articles on Heart Palpitations Causes and Risks.


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