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Heart palpitations

Overview Treatment
Alternative Names:
Heartbeat sensations; Irregular heartbeat; Palpitations; Heart pounding or racing; Racing heart
Home Care:

Reducing stress and anxiety can help lessen your heart palpitations. Try breathing exercises or deep relaxation (a step-by-step process of tensing and then relaxing every muscle group in your body) at the time of your heartbeat sensations. Also, consider practicing yoga or tai chi on a regular basis to reduce the frequency of your palpitations.

Keep a record of how often you have palpitations, when they happen, how long they last, your heart rate at the time of the palpitations, and what you are feeling at the time. This information may help your doctor figure out both their seriousness and the cause.

Once a serious cause has been ruled out by your doctor, try NOT to pay attention to heart palpitations, unless you notice a sudden increase or a change in them.

If you have never had heart palpitations before, bring them to the attention of your doctor. He or she will do a work up to determine the cause and whether they are treatable or not.

Call your health care provider if:

Call 911 if:

Call your doctor right away if:

  • You feel frequent extra heartbeats (more than 6 per minute or coming in runs of 3 or more).
  • You have risk factors for heart disease like high cholesterol, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
  • You have new or different heart palpitations.
  • Your pulse is more than 100 beats per minute (without exercise, anxiety, or fever).
What to expect at your health care provider's office:

Your doctor will take a medical history, perform a physical exam, and do an EKG. If you are in distress (meaning that you have chest pain, shortness of breath, or other concerning symptoms) and are in the emergency room, your cardiac rhythm will be monitored. An emergency intervention will be performed if necessary to restore normal cardiac rhythm.

If you do not have the symptoms at the time of your visit, the doctor will want to know what your pulse was at the time you felt the palpitations and whether or not the rhythm felt regular.

Medical history questions may include:

  • Do you feel skipped or stopped beats?
  • Does your heart rate feel slow or fast when you have the palpitations?
  • Do you feel a racing, pounding, or fluttering?
  • Is there a regular or irregular pattern to the unusual heartbeat sensation?
  • Did the palpitations begin or end suddenly?
  • When do the palpitations occur? In response to reminders of a traumatic event? When you are lying down and resting? When you change your body position? When you feel emotional?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
As part of your physical exam, your doctor will check your temperature, pulse, rate of breathing, and blood pressure. He or she will also pay special attention to your heart and lungs.

Diagnostic tests that may be performed include: If your doctor finds that you have an abnormal heart rhythm, write down what it is called and be sure to tell other professionals involved in your medical care.
Prevention:

Try to reduce stress and risk factors for heart disease:

  • Don't smoke.
  • Eat a well-balanced, low-fat diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Try stress management techniques like yoga, tai chi, or meditation.
  • Make sure that your blood pressure and cholesterol are under control.
Heart chambers
Heart chambers
Heart beat
Heart beat
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