Palpitations are feelings or sensations that your heart is pounding or racing. They can be felt in your chest, throat, or neck.
The heart’s rhythm may be normal or abnormal when you have palpitations.
Heartbeat sensations; Irregular heartbeat; Palpitations; Heart pounding or racing
Normally the heart beats 60 to 100 times per minute. The rate may drop below 60 beats per minute in people who exercise routinely or take medicines that slow the heart.
If your heart rate is fast (over 100 beats per minute), this is called tachycardia. A heart rate slower than 60 is called bradycardia. An occasional extra heartbeat is known as extrasystole.
Palpitations are not serious most of the time. Sensations representing an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) may be more serious.
The following conditions make you more likely to have an abnormal heart rhythm:
Heart palpitations can be due to:
However, some palpitations are due to an abnormal heart rhythm, which may be caused by:
Things you can do to limit palpitations include:
Once a serious cause has been ruled out by your provider, try not to pay close attention to heart palpitations. This may cause stress. However, contact your provider if you notice a sudden increase or a change in them.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
If you have never had heart palpitations before, see your health care provider.
Call 911 or your local emergency number if you have:
Call your doctor right away if:
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your provider will examine you and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms.
You may be asked:
An electrocardiogram will be done.
In the emergency room, you will be connected to a heart monitor.
If your provider finds you have an abnormal heart rhythm, other tests may be done. This may include:
Fang JC, O’Gara PT. The history and physical examination. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald’s Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 11.
Miller JM, Zipes DP. Diagnosis of cardiac arrhythmias.In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald’s Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 34.
Olgin JE. Approach to the patient with suspected arrhythmia. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman’s Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 62.
Review Date: 5/17/2016
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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