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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Heart palpitations

The term palpitations refers to an abnormal awareness of your heartbeat.

Some people describe palpitations as a feeling that your heart is pounding or fluttering. You may feel like your heart is racing, has missed a beat or added a beat.

Palpitations aren't usually a sign of a seriously problem. Most palpitations will go away by themselves.



If you have palpitations with chest pain, feel short of breath, feel light-headed or dizzy, faint or have a blackout, you should seek urgent medical help.

Causes of palpitations

There can be several causes of palpitations. These include:

Diagnosing palpitations

Your doctor will take a detailed history of your symptoms. This is likely to include how long they last, how often you have them, if anything else happens at the same time, if there are any triggers such as exercise and if there is a family history of heart problems or sudden early death.

They will check your pulse and blood pressure and listen to your heart.

You may need blood tests to check for a cause and an electrocardiogram (ECG) to show your heart's electrical activity.

Sometimes you'll need to have a Holter monitor, which shows your heart's activity over 24 to 48 hours.

Treating palpitations

Most palpitations do not need any treatment as they aren't serious and will stop by themselves.

If there are lifestyle factors such as anxiety, stress, caffeine, smoking, alcohol and drug taking, treating these can help.

If another condition or medication is a cause, treating this or stopping the medication will help.

You can find information about treating other heart conditions on atrial fibrillation, supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), ectopic beats and heart failure.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed December 2021.

Page reference: 47803

Review key: HIHPL-25273