Are all heart palpitations dangerous?

Palpitations - the sensation that the heart has started to race or pound, or feels like it has skipped a beat - are usually caused by a harmless hiccup in the heart's rhythm.

Sometimes, though, palpitations reflect a problem in the heart or elsewhere in the body. Sorting out worrisome palpitations from harmless ones isn't always easy, reports the September 2007 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

Palpitations are extremely common. Different people experience them in different ways. You might feel as though your heart is fluttering, throbbing, flip-flopping, or pounding, or that it has missed a beat. Palpitations can appear out of the blue and disappear just as suddenly. Or they might be linked with certain activities, events, or feelings. Some of the most important pieces of information that can help your doctor in pinning them down is how palpitations feel, how often they strike, and when they occur.

Some palpitations result from premature contractions of the heart's chambers or malfunctions of a heart valve. But a physical exam and electrocardiogram often don't turn up any problems, which can be frustrating to the patient. If your palpitations aren't accompanied by dizziness or other symptoms and if you don't have a valve disorder or other structural problem with your heart, that usually means palpitations are benign.

The Harvard Heart Letter suggests that if you have unexplained palpitations, start with simple steps to help alleviate them. Cut back on caffeine, smoking, and alcohol; avoid over-the-counter decongestants, eat and drink regularly, get enough sleep, and find a way to relax if you are stressed. In some cases, your doctor may recommend medications or a procedure to correct errant electrical signals in the heart.


  1. Belle Belle Australia says:

    I have had heart palpitations since I was quite young, but lately they've gone for about 20 seconds and they are accompanied by dizziness, loss of breath and nausea. I'm not sure if this means anything. Is anyone else experiencing the same thing?

    • bobby bobby United States says:

      I don't get dizzy but lately they have been constant. I've had a stress test and cardiogram and doc says everything looks normal. I'm going to try to cut all caffeine and alcohol out of my diet. Note that I have asthma and sometimes taking that too often seems to trigger this reaction. I also am very active in triathlons and other sporting activities I'm worried though I'm only 33 what will it be like at 43.

  2. jamie jamie United Kingdom says:

    this page has helped me understand more about my palpitations. they are a quick 'rushing' beat (and often a little painful) that only lasts about 2 seconds. although they are rare now, i used to have them very regularly (probably due to my being overweight), but since i exercise daily (between 30-60 minutes) they occur far less. i am fairly sure now that they are quite harmless, though i will not ignore them as 'nothing', and i will rest a little easier now!!!

  3. claire goodwin claire goodwin United Kingdom says:

    I have been suffering for 2 months with palpations, dizziness, fatique, breathless, faintness, ringing in the ears which these outbursts can last for hours.i have had a 24 hr ecg and a scan of my heart but this was normal. Can you please tell me what can be wrong.My doctor heard a heart murmer and i have low folic acid levels but i have not been told a reason for my symptoms

    kind regards

  4. paul paul Ireland says:

    when i lie down in bed the heart beats faster why is this

  5. Meg Meg United Kingdom says:

    I've had palpations since around January, and they are getting more and more frequent. They last for around 4 seconds and my heart feels like its fluttering. I should also mention here I'm just starting to recover from an eating disorder which I've had for about a year. Could it be linked to my eating disorder, and if so are they dangerous?

  6. saima khan saima khan United Kingdom says:

    I also started having missed beats been about 7 months now. I also  had electrocardiagram and the results came out normal, but now I am having them more frequently and the wake me up whilst I am sleeping. I am petrified but I am very stressed with the children especially. I also had a blood test for colesterol which came out normal too.

  7. A SAFF A SAFF United States says:

    I started having heart palpitations 2 weeks ago, I came back from lunch and it started. I felt like it was skipping beats and I felt like my breath was taken away for a second, i start coughing to make it go away but that doesn't work all the time, sometimes it makes it worse. I went to the ER they did all kinds of tests, EKG, chest X-ray, blood test, and everything came out normal, but when they were monitoring my heart, I could clearly see the irregular beats. so I'm not sure what to do. I stopped drinking coffee, stopped smoking. I know it's too early to show results, but if this is what i need to do then I will. I hope this will help others knowing about different kinds of heart populations that people go through.

  8. Gerallt Davies Gerallt Davies United Kingdom says:

    Had palpitations now and again before i was put on low dose ramipril. After 3 weeks on these i am having a lot mor palpitations.Checked with doctor who said my heart seemed normal with a little high blood pressure.Seems we are all told everything's ok. but how can the doctors be sure without looking at deeper tests. Are they saving money or what!!

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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