Heart palpitations are the sensations of a racing or pounding heart, and can be felt in the neck, throat, or chest. You may feel like your heart is skipping beats and experience an unpleasantly heightened awareness of your heartbeat. When you have heart palpitations, the heart’s rhythm may be abnormal.
The heart normally beats anywhere from 60 to 100 times per minute. If your heart rate is over 100 beats per minute, it is abnormally fast in a condition called tachycardia. Having an occasional extra heartbeat is called extrasystole.
While the heart palpitations themselves are usually harmless and not serious and, they can indicate a much more serious underlying condition. Heart palpitations can, in rare cases, be classified as arrhythmia, abnormal heart rhythm, which may be caused by conditions including: an abnormal heart valve, significant risk factors for developing heart disease, existing heart disease, and an electrolyte abnormality in your blood. Electrolyte abnormalities may be due to something like a low potassium level.
Your doctor will be able to determine if your heart palpitations are due to an underlying cause and then prescribe the correct treatment. If your palpitations are not associated with an underlying cause, you can help prevent them with lifestyle changes such as stress management and avoiding smoking and caffeine.
Heart palpitations may be caused by caffeine, nicotine, exercise, diet pills, fever, cocaine or other illegal drugs, stress, anxiety, fear, or panic attack. Some palpitations may be due to an overactive thyroid, certain medicines, heart disease, abnormal blood level of potassium, abnormal heart valve, or low oxygen level in the blood.
You can help reduce or prevent heart palpitations by reducing anxiety and stress, decreasing your caffeine and nicotine intake, practicing meditation or yoga, quitting smoking, and exercising on a regular basis.
Call your doctor immediately if you feel extra heartbeats, have risk factors for heart disease, have different or new palpitations, or have a pulse that has quickened to more than 100 beats per minute without fever, anxiety, or exercise. Call for emergency medical services if you experience chest pain, loss of consciousness, unusual sweating, shortness of breath, or dizziness.