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This information was reviewed and approved by Christopher K. Dyke, MD, FACC (5/31/2023).


Heart palpitations are a common condition characterized by the feeling of a rapid, pounding heartbeat. While heart palpitations can be a symptom of a serious condition like arrhythmia or atrial fibrillation, they typically are not cause for concern and do not always require treatment.

Heart palpitations can sometimes be a recurring condition. Other times, rapid or irregular heart rhythms will go away on their own over time. Stress and anxiety are among the factors that can lead to this condition.

Lifestyle changes can lower your risk for heart palpitations. However, it’s best to discuss changes in heart rhythm with your doctor to rule out the possibility of a more serious issue.


While the causes of heart palpitations can be broad, the most common factors behind them include:

  • Stress and anxiety

  • Sleep deprivation

  • Stimulants like caffeine and nicotine

  • Alcohol consumption

  • Certain medications (consult with your doctor)

  • Exercise

  • Pregnancy

  • Menopause

In rare cases, heart palpitations can be caused by anemia, hyperthyroidism or arrhythmia. As always, it’s best to consult with your doctor about the potential reason behind your heart palpitations.


The sensation of a faster or abnormal heartbeat is the most common symptom of heart palpitations. This feeling can be noticeable in your chest or in your neck and throat. You may be experiencing heart palpitations if you have:

  • A racing heartbeat

  • A pounding heartbeat

  • The feeling that your heart has skipped a beat

  • A fluttering sensation

When heart palpitations coincide with symptoms like pain, dizziness, shortness of breath or excessive fatigue, this may indicate a more serious issue. Make sure you monitor the frequency of your symptoms and give your doctor a thorough description.


Diagnosing heart palpitations involves your doctor listening to your heart and lungs. There are many reasons for heart palpitations, so your doctor also will want to know about lifestyle issues such as sleep deprivation and stress that could be causing this condition.

If your doctor suspects that a more significant heart condition like arrhythmia is behind your palpitations, they may require more tests such as electrocardiogram or echocardiogram.

Most of the time heart palpitations are benign and not a symptom of a more serious condition, but it is important to confirm that with your doctor.


Heart palpitations do not always require treatment. Many times, heart palpitations will go away on their own without medications. In other cases, simple lifestyle adjustments such as getting more exercise or sleep can help to improve this condition, as heart palpitations can often result from things like stress and anxiety. Your doctor also may recommend reducing things such as caffeine or nicotine. Quitting smoking has been shown to reduce your risk of many heart conditions, including heart palpitations. Switching to a more heart-healthy diet also may be beneficial.

In severe cases, especially when the heart palpitations are caused by an underlying condition such as heart disease or arrhythmia, your doctor may prescribe medications. Surgery or implants also may be necessary in these cases.