Are Heart Palpitations Normal?

July 1, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Kanika Mody, M.D. contributes to topics such as Heart Care.

Are heart palpitations normal? The answer depends on several factors, including how often palpitations occur and if they disrupt your day-to-day activities.

A flip-flopping feeling in your chest comes and goes. Your heart seems to skip a beat, thump hard or flutter fast. You may already know these sensations are due to heart palpitations—but are they normal?

The answer depends on several factors, including how often palpitations occur and if they disrupt your day-to-day activities, according to heart specialists at Hackensack University Medical Center.

“Palpitations can be normal or not normal, but the bottom line is they shouldn’t be ignored,” says cardiothoracic surgeon Mark Anderson, M.D. “Most of the time palpitations aren’t serious, but they can be.”

What Causes Heart Palpitations?

Triggers for heart palpitations include:

  • Stress
  • Exercise or overexertion
  • Caffeine, tobacco, diet pills or other stimulants
  • Various medications such as thyroid pills, asthma drugs or cold remedies
  • Hormone changes
  • Low blood pressure
  • Heart or valve abnormalities

In short, the causes of heart palpitations can range from inconsequential to serious, says heart failure and transplant specialist Kanika Mody, M.D.

“Palpitations are a very common experience. If you surveyed 100 people, about 90 of them would have reported heart palpitations over the last few months,” Dr. Mody explains. “Women tend to have more heart palpitations than men, unquestionably linked to hormonal changes they experience.”

When to Seek Care for Heart Palpitations

While heart palpitations don’t usually signal a dangerous problem, Drs. Mody and Anderson advise seeking medical advice if you experience them often.

“Fleeting palpitations aren’t typically worrisome, but if there’s a pattern to it or it’s disturbing your daily lifestyle, it’s time to see a doctor,” Dr. Mody says.

To trace the cause of palpitations:

  • Your doctor will likely ask a series of questions.
  • They may also draw blood to check thyroid and hormone levels.
  • They might connect you to a portable heart monitor to evaluate heart rhythm over time.
  • They might perform an echocardiogram to look for structural abnormalities in your heart muscle or valves.

If no other cause for palpitations emerges, you may be referred to an electrophysiologist, a cardiac specialist who tests and treats heart rhythm problems. But behavior changes are typically recommended if nothing dire is found, Dr. Mody says.

“You’ll likely be told to limit stress and caffeine intake along with practicing good sleep hygiene,” she says. “Most patients with palpitations are in an age group where there’s always a risk of heart disease developing, so they’ll be monitored for that, as well.”

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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.