Skip to main content

What Can Cause Heart Palpitations?

The Human Heart...Atria, Ventricles and Electrical Conduction System

The Human Heart's Electrical Conduction System. Note the placement of the Sinatorial Node within the right atrium. And that of the Atrioventricular Node, loacated in the right ventricle.

The Human Heart's Electrical Conduction System. Note the placement of the Sinatorial Node within the right atrium. And that of the Atrioventricular Node, loacated in the right ventricle.

Everyone of us from time to time, has most likely experienced our hearts beating a bit faster or thumping a little harder then at other moments. For the most part this is not unusual and we may also have been able to visualize the pulse in our necks or chest itself-heaving ever so slightly.

This is absolutely normal and you should not be too concerned if you have experienced feelings like this after excercising; or maybe even after you had managed to get into a heated argument with an individual, or even with your spouse for that matter.

These abnormal sensations if you will, or rapid pulsations are real enough and are produced from blood being pumped away from your heart and throughout your entire body. You are certainly not imagining this when you are aware of your heart beating in your chest quicker than usual because in actuality you are feeling it doing just that.

The normal heart rate in men is (60-100) beats per minute; in a woman that number is slightly higher. Palpitations as I mentioned earlier in the article are perfectly normal, especially if you are excited, anxious or have just completed a rigorous exercise routine.

Palpitations however are not always normal, especially if you have been sitting in your favorite lounge chair for the last four hours reading your favorite novel; and all of a sudden you begin to feel your heart start to beat faster and faster for no reason at all.

On occasion this may be perfectly normal, but not always. Particularly if the palpitations are accompanied by shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting or chest pain. You may even have experienced or felt like your your heart is skipping or missing a few beats as you are experiencing these palpitations.

If you are experiencing an abnormal heart rhythm or skipped beats with the palpitations this may be a reason for concern. Particularly if you have the above symptoms that I mentioned here, with these palpitations.

If Palpitations come on abruptly and you know that you already have underlying heart disease confirmed by your physician, then you should be more concerned when you are getting the palpitations and/or abnormal heart rhythms.

Scroll to Continue

Cardio related palpitations do not always occur during the daytime either, they can occur at anytime of the day, come on suddenly and even can wake you in the middle of the night. Certain types of Arrhythmia's, that occur in the Atria or upper chambers of your heart can lead to heart palpitations.

Atril Fibrillation, or AFIB, is one type of Arrhythmia that can cause this very fast heart beat. This in turn is caused by an interruption of the electrical conduction pathway signal of either the SA Node (Sinatorial Node) or AV (Atrio-ventricular) node located in the right atrium of the heart. To note...the heart has four total chambers, two above, called the atria, and two ventricles located below the atria.

AFIB may also be caused by a leaky mitral valve for example, or if you have a heart murmur that is not a direct cause of heart related disease. When a premature contraction, or heartbeat occurs earlier than normal, this can also produce a feeling that can lead to more of a forceful sensation of the beating of the heart.

Bradycardia or a heart rate, below sixty beats per minute on the other hand is abnormal for the most part. It is not uncommon for trained athletes to have bradycardia bowever. Bradycardia can also be classified as an arrhytmia just like Tachycardia, or Atrial Fibrillation are considered to be arrhythmias. Bradycardias can also lead to varying degrees of Heart Block.

This particular rhythm disturnance of the cardiovascular system; ranges from first degree to third degree. Third degree is considered more serious requiring treatment, wheras first degree heart block usually is non life-threatening or not serious and does not require any form of medicinal treatment.

Different types of medications can interfere with the signal in the electrical conduction system of the heart as well and cause certain arrhythmias to occur without warning. Beta-Blocker drugs...Metroprolol or Lopressor can for example cause the heart ot beat much slower than normal. Other medications to control hypertension or high blood pressure can also cause palpitations of the heart muscle.

Below is a list of some other diseases or conditions that can also cause heart palpitations. The list and definitions of all of these conditions are too numerous to go more in depth within this particular article. They are basically for you the reader, to familiarize yourself with and be aware of them.

The above illnesses and disorders listed are some of the more common conditions that can cause heart palpitations. Your physician or cardiologist if you are referred to one by your family health care practitioner; can attach a holter monitor to you for a twenty-four hour period.

The holter monitor is like a miniature EKG machine with electrodes attached to your chest. You wear the monitor around your waist on a belt or over your neck on a strap. It will record any abnormal heart rhythms or palpitations that you develop during this period, while asleep or doing your daily routine.

When your physician analyzes the results, he or she will be able to determine if you do indeed have some sort of underlying heart problem going on or rule out that there are no problems.. Also the physician may give you a more advanced test called an echocardiogram which looks at the aorta, and other areas of your heart as it is pumping blood through other areas of your body.

Usually a physician can detect and also confirm heart murmurs with an echocardiogram. In addition here are certain blood tests that can pick-up abnormalities in your body that are leading to abnormal arrhythmias or palpitations. Specific enzyme blood tests can further detect almost immediately, if you had suffered a mild heart attack or not for example.

If your consistent rapid heart rate cannot be specifically related to any abnormal or underlying heart condition. Then maybe it could be related to your current life style. Cutting down on coffee or limiting your intake of alcohol may help.

If you are a moderate drinker and tend to favor the drink, then reducing your consumption of alcohol can reduce episodes of palpitations. Also try cutting down on nicotine if you do smoke. This is easier said then done. But smoke alone can cause your heart to palpate unexpectedly, besides its not good for the rest of your body.

Let's face it we all have stress in our lives and live in a stressful world. By reducing some of the stress in our lives, either by listening to music, doing enjoyable things with friends like hiking or even reading a couple of good books a week can help reduce your stress. Try setting up a home aquarium in your living room.

An aquarium can do wonders for not only lowering your stress level, but blood pressure as well. In addition taking up yoga for example; where you are exercising at least thirty minutes a day, three times a week, can be very beneficial for the cardiovascular system. Over time you will see a dramatic drop in your pulse just from the exercise alone.

By practicing some of the aforementioned, you will not only be taking steps in the right direction. But will without doubt, be doing some of the more natural and common things to help reduce the chances of palpitations from occurring in the first place.

Also if you do get a sudden attack of palpitation's or development of a sudden very fast heart rate; try taking in some deep breaths or try this...take your head, place it down between your legs with your hands on each side of your head, than try pushing hard as you can outwards, as if you were attempting a bowel movement.

I know the latter part as previously mentioned above, does not sound too appealing, but believe me I have talked to folks that have told me this is very effective in assisting with arresting the palpitations. Just don't try to visualize yourself sitting in the bathroom on the throne when peforming this procedure, but rather try doing it on a more sturdy or comfortable chair.

Remember the heart palpitations you are experiencing are normal, because your heart is still beating and pumping blood throughout the rest of your body. And there is nothing out of the ordinary occurring here, except excitement causing excitement, from possibly coffee stimulation or from nocotine products.

If you do get palpitations with arrhythmia's and are especially accompanied by dizziness, fainting spells or difficulty breathing. This in turn may not be normal and you may need to consult your doctor or cardiology specialist sooner then later.

There are also medications that are used to slow an already abnormal or rapid heart rate. Calcium Channel Blockers, verapamil or norvasc to name a couple in this class, can also be used to control tachycardia or palpitations.

Also try placing a bayer aspirin (Sublingually)-beneath the tongue, if you are experiencing angina, or chest pain associated with the palpitations. The aspirin, 81mg. or higher generally acts as an analgesic for someone experiencing chest related pain. Whether it is or isn't related to abnormal heart rhythms.

On the other hand, if you do not have a problem with bradycardia or slow heart rate and are getting palpitations continually or an abnormally fast arrhythmia, than your doctor may prescribe a beta-blocker. Inderal, and Lopressor, and a newer drug called Bystolic are a few of the medications used to control fast heart rates or palpitations.

In today's society where the majority of us suffer from some form of depression and/or depression mixed with anxiety-(social anxiety disorder), it is not uncommon at all to experience palpitations more so then individuals who do not have this problem.

It's also a known fact, that some of us can handle stress or emotions better than others...nothing to be ashamed of because a lot of times it simply has to do with our genetic make up-nothing more, nothing less!

A good many individuals have also relied on older anti-anxiety agents to control stress and palpitations. A few of these popular drugs or Benzodiazepines are Valium, Ativan and Xanax and Clonazepam. Clonazepam is a good choice in not only controlling anxiety attacks but the palpitations that are often associated with this so-called - impending feeling of doom! Fight or flight syndrome you could compare the feeling to.

In addition Clonazepam is less addicting than medicines like Xanax and Valium and the (Half-Life) in turn is shorter. Half-Life refers to the drug not staying within your body as long and gets eliminated from your system quicker by way of metabolism breakdown within the liver.

Also try increasing your B-Vitamin intake, particularly Vitamin B-1, which is Thiamine. Palpitations have also been contributed to low levels of this B vitamin. Basically all said...if you take care of your body it in turn will take care of you.

Look at it this way...if you put a poor grade of gas in your car, and it calls for lets say a higher octane gas, it certainly won't run better with that lower octane gas, right? Same thing with your body, if you drink more soda and coffee then water or juices, your body in the long run isn't going to perform or feel as good.

It's like the car with the poor octane gas that is placed in its tank. It sputter's and hesitates often upon acceleration. Palpitations in this instance can be the result of too many of the soda's, and other caffeinated products along with the alcohol and nicotine you are putting into it, that can cause it too beat abnormally fast or just too hard-you get the idea.

Its better to be safe then sorry if you have been experiencing palpitations for some time. Make an appointment with your healthcare professional and get the palpitations evaluated. This will only help to reassure, that you just have to may have to make some adjustments in your overall lifestyle.

If your doctor finds otherwise via testing that you do have abnormal heart rhythms in conjunction with your palpitations, you will be glad that you did follow-up with treatment, because it could someday make a difference between life and death.


James Bowden (author) from Long Island, New York on November 26, 2018:

Hi Barbara, I certainly hope your issues with prior and current palpitation issues are resolved. But in the meantime my suggestion would be to find one good physician/Cardiologist who is a real diagnostician. So there are no guessing games involved where your heart is concerned. Also it helps if a Cardiologist is affiliated with a large hospital. This way and for the most part one or two cardiac tests, rather then multiple tests will help solve the real underlying causes of your palpitations. Whether it's a electrical conductivity issue of the heart muscle, which usually starts in an area called the Sinatorial node, or possibly the bundle of his area. In the meantime increasing your exercise and decreasing stress can only alleviate further bouts of palpitations. I wish you much success with this and the best of continued health!

Jim Bowden

Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on November 26, 2018:

I have had episodes of palpitations since I was a teen. I'm now 75. When I was in my thirties my cardiologist told me I had Mitral valve prolapse and he prescribed digoxin which kept it under control for about thirty years. When I moved here, my new cardiologist did more tests, had me wear the monitor, etc. He determined I had high blood pressure and he prescribed metoprolol.

That worked until another blood test made another doctor think my metoprolol and thyroid med should be decreased. My palpitations suddenly got worse and I started having bad episodes again like the 3-4 hour rapid heart rates that made me dizzy and tired. He kept trying to adjust the meds and I thought we had it fixed again for about three months.

It suddenly started to break loose again, but so far not for long time periods. I'm still trying to decide whether to have ablation surgery or not. That is supposed to fix, at least temporarily, the short circuit in my heart's electrical system the doctor says is causing my problem. I'm still hoping to avoid that.

James Bowden (author) from Long Island, New York on February 08, 2017:


I greatly appreciate your feedback to my article and how it helped you in comparison to your own past experience with heart palpitations.

It's a scary experience isn't it? And I remember the first time I experienced them way back in a college class. I was basically attending classes during the day and working at night.

What set mine off in a class one day was basically drinking numerous amounts of coffee during the evening and in turn - not getting enough rest.

So like you in somewhat a similar but totally different scenario, I too know the fear you first experienced! Hopefully you do not experience palpitations in the future like you had in the past. Take care!


BODYLEVIVE from Alabama, USA on February 07, 2017:

I have an enlarged heart and heart palpitations are frightening. The first time it happened, I woke up. I didn't know what was happening. The whole house woke up, next thing I knew the ambulance was here. I didn't wanna go but they insisted and that what it was, heart palpitations.

James Bowden (author) from Long Island, New York on August 17, 2013:

Hello Paula:

First of all... I want to Thank you for being a fan & follower of my written work. And I also greatly appreciate all your insightful, as well as kind comments. I love to write and educate all of my readers, especially on health related topics. Currently I have been working on writing a fictional book for some time. Something that I longed to do for some time now.

Wish I could find the time to write more articles like this one, but that word....TIME, keeps haunting me. I can promise you one thing though. I definitely will find the time to read a few of yours, as I have recently skimmed through a few of your article that have captured my interest.

In the meantime, take care of your health, and the AF issues that you were experiencing.

I know two individual's who suffer from bouts of Afib. It is certainly a very real condition, and one that can be equally as frightening! Two different medications that contradict each other, as well as an underlying, or silent, undetected heart murmur, could also cause AFIB. This is what caused my friends' particular attacks.

Again, I hope you found this article interesting as well as educational. And I will be stopping by real soon to check your writings out too! Take care.


Suzie from Carson City on August 16, 2013:

Jl.....Since my 4th son was a baby (he is now 32) I have had to deal with atrial fibrilation. The first episode, came on suddenly, out of the blue. I can't begin to tell you all that I went through, just trying to convince a Dr...ANY Dr. that what I was experiencing was REAL, not imagined....and that because I am so keenly attuned to my own body....I KNEW that this AF was not brought on by, nor repeatedly occurring due to anything I was doing, eating, drinking or causing, in any way, on my own. No, it was not stress or anxiety (I should know!)..No, it was not caffeine! nor activity, nor psychosomatic! NO! It is such a long, involved story, there's no way I can tell it in a comment section. Suffice it to say, after YEARS of my own fierce determination and in depth research, doctors, hospitals, tests, medications etc, ad infinitum...ALL to no avail. I ALL BY MYSELF, finally got control of this issue, to a degree that I can now say it has become much less severe as well as less frequent. The entire lengthy fiasco has left a terribly bad terms of "physicians" who, in my case, were CLUELESS. Ultimately, I settled for a dx of "an electrical problem." I was not a candidate for ablation...and it was not WPW. Seriously, I could write a BOOK!

I LOVE this article. It is so educational, clear, concise and well-written. It looks like I'll be reading all of your hubs throughout the next few weeks!....Thank you!...UP+++

James Bowden (author) from Long Island, New York on August 27, 2012:


Thank you for stopping by and providing your feedback on this hub article. I am glad that you found it informative, as well as useful. And yes in this stressful society that we live in today, it is not uncommon for many of us to experience palpitations for one reason or another. Thank you for your votes as well!


mismazda from a southern georgia peach on August 27, 2012:

Very informative hub..and facts that we all need to know..I ,myself have experienced heart palpitations, and they are no fun. Voted up and useful.

James Bowden (author) from Long Island, New York on August 17, 2012:

Hello Mismazda and Rui:

I thank you both for your votes, as well as feedback in reference to my article on heart palpitations. Mismazda I am glad that you found the article interesting and useful and as mentoned learned about other causes for heart palpitations.

Rui: I have a friend who also has MVP and it seems like this valvular disorder is more commonplace among many today. As you mentoned MVP for the most part is not always something to be concerned about and I am glad that yours is a harmless pain in the neck! (: Jl

Rui Carreira from Torres Novas on August 17, 2012:


Nice article!

I have mitral valve prolapse - those harmless ones.

My heart skips beats or gives one more than usual from time to time and I don't like how it feels even though its normal.

Well Researched.... MVP is a harmless pain in the neck..

mismazda from a southern georgia peach on August 17, 2012:

Great information that shared and very interesting..did not know some of the things that you had listed caused heart palpitations. Voted up and useful.

James Bowden (author) from Long Island, New York on April 21, 2012:

Hello Mitral:

Thank you again for your comments in reference to my article. I am glad that you are finding the information beneficial in some way. Also thank you for being a follower and welcome to the hubpages writing platform, as a fairly new member. Good luck to you!


mitral1 on April 21, 2012:

Great blog here i like all the information thats being shared, congratulations.

Heart Valve Repair

James Bowden (author) from Long Island, New York on April 19, 2012:


I hope you did gain some valuable information from my article about palpitations. And an over- abundance of anxiety can not only be bad for your health overall, but also will cause palpitations no matter what your age is. Valium is very addictive and if you can manage without pills then by all means do so. Clonazepan, or Xanax 0.5 mg.I tend to prefer clonazapam myself for anxiety, especially when I travel via jet.Both of these drugs work much better for anxiety issues. And to add it is much less addictive because it stays in your system a shorter period of time. If you can find a primary care physician who specializes in geriatrics, being you are a bit older, this type of doctor may help you with the issues you are going through right now.Best of luck to you and I hope you feel better soon!


helena on April 19, 2012:

since my son moved to s carolina the day after christmas i have an anxiety problem,as i took care of small grandkids for 6 years ages 6 and twins 4. my heart is broken and i get palpitations on and off when i think to much. i am 74 and had this problem twice before when 31, then again at 43. my wonderful dr gave me valium and it helped. my friend gave me 10 valium to use when needed when son helped. 10 amonth wont get you addicted,you take as needed. the drs here in ma. won't let an older woman have this. they want to put me on a anti- depressant and my sister, a nurse said NO it will make things worse. i cannot find a dr here and i plan suicide because of these drs her in ma are after money by pill pushing. they give the ones on masshealth all the feel good pills they want. i know a few who get them,my niece and her lowlife boyfriend.. so i guess i will have to get them else where.

James Bowden (author) from Long Island, New York on March 17, 2012:

Sounds good Dorsi and glad that you have had the echos in the past. Glad to hear you are doing fine and I found out about a year ago from my doctor that I have a heart murmur caused by a leaky mitral valve myself. So it looks like many of us are not alone when it comes to these problems. Take care.


Dorsi Diaz from The San Francisco Bay Area on March 17, 2012:

Thanks Jim. Yes I have had a few echos during the course of my life. The last one was 2 years ago and besides a leaky valve, they said I was OK.

James Bowden (author) from Long Island, New York on March 17, 2012:

Hi Dorsi:

Glad you enjoyed my hub about heart palipitations and I know many people suffer from this problem. There are many causes including the Mitral valve prolapse you currently suffer with. And a lack of potassium or vitamin K in the diet could be a direct link to palpitations as well. I am sure your doctor had already ordered an echocardiogram of the heart for you. But if they haven't it may be behoove you to get one done in the future. Thank you for being a follower of my articles and also thanks for voting way up! Take care and stay healthy.


Dorsi Diaz from The San Francisco Bay Area on March 16, 2012:

Very well written hub on an important topic. I have had palpitations, tachycardia and a slow heartbeat. All scary. Test after test. I know I have a heart murmur and have been told I have MVP. I went to emergency last month because I had skipped beats for 4 days (constant) It was very irritating and frightening. They said I had a heart "anomaly" but otherwise seemed OK because I had no shortness of breath, dizziness or chest pain. I've lived with this my whole life. Doesn't a lack of potassium also cause heartbeat irregularities?

Thanks again for the great hub. Rated way up!

James Bowden (author) from Long Island, New York on October 29, 2011:


I am glad that you found my article useful to you in some way. It's always good to know that someone like yourself may benefit from what I wrote. And thanks for your insightful comments.

Best of health!


treat gout naturally on October 29, 2011:

This really is a marvelous article. Thanks a ton for

all of this. It is a great guide!

Check this out on treatment for gout.

treat gout naturally

James Bowden (author) from Long Island, New York on October 28, 2011:

Hello KT and Jeffries:

Glad that you found my article on heart palpitations useful to you both in some way. There is a lot of good information out there in many other good hubs besides my own, as Jeffries had also mentioned. So much good medical info. on these topics that one could actually write a mini series of articles about cardiovascular problems. Again thank you both for all of your insightful comments-greatly appreciated and will try to write more future articles like this one. Best of health both of you!


Dave from United States on October 28, 2011:

I don't normally post another Hub in comments to a Hub, but I think it's relevant. My wife has this issue, and here's the Hub that explains it:

The PVC's are sometimes classified as minimal to troublesome, but very hard to tell without some analysis from doctors.

Great Hub, btw, Jlbowden, very useful!

Kristin Trapp from Illinois on October 28, 2011:

This is very useful information. In the past I have experienced heart palpitations, as well as skipped and extra beats, I think due to too much thyroid medication, making me hyperthyroid. By adjusting my dosage and adding magnesium to my regimen (as other commenters have noted) I have been able to mostly eliminate this problem. But it was awful when it was occurring. Voting up and useful.

James Bowden (author) from Long Island, New York on October 28, 2011:


Thank you for the positive and insightful comments you had left about this hub article. I am glad that you have not only found it useful, but also hpe that it will benefit you in some way or another. Best of health to you!


Valerie Washington from Tempe, Arizona on October 28, 2011:

Great information! I experience palpitations much during the week. I have an abnormal heartbeat, PVC's show up all the time on my EKG. I will be having my second ablation soon to hopefully rectify this--personally I think I need a pacemaker, but hey..I'm no doctor!! Voted up and useful!!

James Bowden (author) from Long Island, New York on May 25, 2011:

Hello Darvocet Law:

In reference to your prior comment, on my article on heart palpitations. As mentioned in the article, heart Palpitations can arise from a variety of causes and conditions. You can be perfectly healthy and still experience them. If your just simply sitting in your chair and experience a fast heart beat. It could simply be from stress. Which a good many people in our society as you know, experience today. Your not alone. I'm glad you found the article useful and informative in some way and apologize for having overlooked your earlier comments. I would have responded much sooner. Here's some additional advice from me, if you are still getting the Palpitations than, take a little time off if you can afford to from your job. Nothing like a little R&R to ease the intensity or occurrence of palpitations. Take care.


Darvocet Lawsuit on May 09, 2011:

I've always wondered about the palpitations I've been experiencing even when I'm simply sitting down and not doing any strenuous activities. Thanks for sharing this hub.

D on May 08, 2011:

I've always wondered about the palpitations I've been experiencing even when I'm simply sitting down and not doing any strenuous activities. Thanks for sharing this hub.

James Bowden (author) from Long Island, New York on May 06, 2011:


Thank you for your additional feedback in reference to my Hub. Yes, Mg. levels are also very important to help prevent palpitations. Thanks again for this important reminder.


keeponfalling from Somewhere, under the Sun :) on May 05, 2011:

Also low magnesium levels can cause palpitation you need to take care of that.

Related Articles