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Heart Palpitations: Know The Triggers And Treatment

Medically reviewed by Lauren Labrador, MD, FPCP, DPCC · Cardiology

Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Sep 15, 2022

    Heart Palpitations: Know The Triggers And Treatment

    You may experience palpitations in your chest, throat, or neck, which feel like your heart is fluttering, skipping, or pounding too quickly. Most of the time, they’re triggered by stress and worry, or because you’ve had too much coffee, nicotine, or alcohol. Heart palpitations can also happen when you’re pregnant, but they’re often not serious or damaging and go away on their own.

    What to do if you experience heart palpitations?

    If you experience heart palpitations, consult your doctor right away, especially if they are accompanied by any of the following symptoms because they may be signs of a more serious cardiac issue:

  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Following a thorough examination and review of your medical history, your doctor may recommend diagnostic testing to identify the cause. The appropriate course of action can lessen or eliminate the palpitations.

    If there is no underlying cause, lifestyle modifications, such as stress reduction, may be recommended. 

    What are the causes of heart palpitations? 

    There are a variety of causes for palpitations. Some of the following may cause heart palpitations.

    • Strong feelings like dread, worry, or anxiety frequently occur during panic attacks.
    • Active physical activity
    • Coffee, nicotine, alcohol, or illicit substances like amphetamines and cocaine
    • Medical issues such as dehydration, fever, low blood pressure, thyroid disorders, and low blood sugar levels, thyroid disease, particularly hyperthyroidism, infection, anemia, including significant blood loss. 
    • Palpitations during pregnancy can be symptoms of anemia, as can hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, or right before menopause.
    • Pharmaceuticals, such as diet pills, decongestants, asthma inhalers, and some medications used to treat or prevent arrhythmias (a significant cardiac rhythm issue).
    • A few dietary and herbal supplements
    • Inappropriate amounts of electrolytes
    • Intake of illicit drugs

    Some people get palpitations after consuming large meals that are high in fat, sugar, or carbs. On occasion, eating foods high in monosodium glutamate (msg), nitrates, or sodium can also cause them.

    Keeping a food diary might help you identify which foods to avoid if you experience heart palpitations after eating particular foods, which may indicate that you have a food sensitivity.

    They may also be a sign of heart disease, in which case, they are more likely to be arrhythmia. Heart diseases that are linked to palpitations include:

    When should you be concerned about palpitations? 

    Most heart attacks are caused by a blockage in the coronary arteries supplying the heart muscle. Heart palpitations can technically result in a heart attack if the heart is racing too fast and for too long. When it does so, it is unable to pump properly and becomes starved of blood and oxygen. You should see a doctor if you experience heart palpitations frequently, for longer than a few seconds, or if they are accompanied by dizziness, loss of consciousness, or any other concerning symptoms. 

    How are heart palpitations diagnosed?

    Your physician will examine you physically, record your medical history, and inquire about your present medications, diet, and way of life. They will also ask specifically about the timing, frequency, and conditions of your palpitations.


    Blood test. Occasionally, a blood test can assist your doctor in determining the reason for your palpitations.

    EKG. The electrocardiogram (EKG) can be performed while you’re at rest or working out and is known as a Stress EKG. It monitors the electrical impulses coming from your heart and can detect abnormal cardiac rhythms.

    Holter monitoring. Another means used in checking heart palpitations is holter monitoring. Holter monitoring involves wearing a device on your chest that records your heart’s electrical activity continuously for 24 to 48 hours. It can detect rhythm variations that an EKG can’t pick up.

    Event recording. When symptoms appear, you’ll wear a device on your chest and utilize a handheld device to record the electrical activity of your heart.

    Chest X-ray. During a chest x-ray, your doctor will look for alterations in your lungs that could be caused by heart issues. For instance, if fluid is found in your lungs. It could be a sign of heart failure.

    Echocardiography. An echocardiography, often known as a type of ultrasound of the heart, gives precise details on the structure and operation of the organ.

    If additional testing or treatment is required, your doctor will refer you to a cardiologist. Also, please note that besides these tests, the patient’s accurate medical history will also be collected and physical examination will be performed to rule out neurocardiogenic causes. Neurologic exams are also important.

    How can heart palpitations be stopped? 

    Depending on the cause, treatment may not be necessary because palpitations frequently go away on their own.

    If your doctor is unable to identify the cause, they could suggest that you stay away from potential palpitation triggers, like the following:

    • Palpitations can be brought on by anxiety, stress, fear, or panic. Therefore, it is best to avoid stressful situations and attempt to remain calm. Aside from relaxation techniques, yoga, tai chi, biofeedback, guided imagery, and aromatherapy are other popular methods for maintaining calm.
    • Eliminate some foods, drinks, and other substances, such as alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and illicit substances.
    • Medications that serve as stimulants should be avoided. Thus you may need to avoid: cold and cough remedies and specific herbal supplements. If lifestyle modifications are unsuccessful, you may be given medication, sometimes beta-blockers or calcium-channel blockers.

    If your doctor discovers a cause for your palpitations, they will concentrate on treating that cause. If the heart palpitations are brought on by medication, your doctor will recommend different treatments. If heart palpitations are caused by an arrhythmia, you may receive medications or procedures. You may also be referred to an electrophysiologist, a specialist in heart rhythm.

    Heart palpitations: Change in diet recommendations

    Aside from medication and lifestyle changes, your doctor may recommend that you do the following to lessen or stop heart palpitations caused by certain food. You may want to AVOID the following:

    • Foods high in carbohydrates can cause blood sugar levels to jump, especially if you already have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
    • Foods high in salt, such as those that are processed or canned
    • Foods high in sugar, particularly if you have hypoglycemia

    Eat more dark leafy greens and dairy products to improve your intake of calcium. Dark leafy greens are also excellent sources of magnesium, as are nuts and seafood. And of course, since dehydration and caffeine intake may trigger palpitation, you might want to drink adequate fluids and avoid caffeinated beverages.

    Although heart palpitations are frequently not significant, they can be caused by faulty heart valves, issues with the heart’s rhythm, or panic attacks. For any concerns, consult your doctor. 

    Key Takeaways

    In many cases of heart palpitations, no treatment is necessary. Instead, you should pay attention to the circumstances when you start experiencing palpitations. Then avoid any certain activities, foods, or triggers that cause them. You may find it helpful to write down when you experience palpitations to see if you can identify a trigger. Work with your doctor to rule out any serious concerns and seek proper treatment. 

    Learn more about Heart Arrhythmias here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Lauren Labrador, MD, FPCP, DPCC


    Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Sep 15, 2022

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