Heart palpitations are heart poundings, flutters, or skipped beats. Although they can feel scary, most aren’t serious and rarely need treatment. Knowing what makes your heart race can help you not panic when it happens and know when to call your doctor.
Heart Palpitations: Stress and Anxiety
Intense emotions can trigger the release of hormones that speed up your heartbeat. Your body gets ready to face a threat, even if you’re not in danger. Panic attacks are intense bouts of fear that can last a few minutes. Symptoms include a racing heart, sweating, chills, trouble breathing, and chest pain. A panic attack can feel like a heart attack. If you’re not sure which one you’re having, get medical help.
Heart Palpitations: Caffeine
Does your heart beat faster after your morning latte? Caffeine is a stimulant that raises your heart rate, whehther you get it from coffee, soda, an energy drink, tea, chocolate, or another source. One study found that caffeine from coffee, tea, and chocolate isn’t likely to cause palpitations in people with healthy hearts. But experts don’t know whether it might trigger them in people with heart rhythm problems.
Heart Palpitations: Hormone Changes
- Antifungal medicines
- Antipsychotic drugs
- Asthma inhalers
- Cough and cold medicines
- Diet pills
- High blood pressure medicines
- Thyroid pills
If you take one or more of these types of meds, ask your doctor if it could affect your heartbeat. Don’t skip any doses before you check with your doctor.
Heart Palpitations: Low Blood Sugar
Have you ever noticed that you feel shaky, cranky, and weak when you’ve skipped a meal? It can also lead to palpitations. When your blood sugar level drops, your body releases stress hormones like adrenaline to prepare for an emergency food shortage. Adrenaline speeds up your heart rate.
Heart Palpitations: Overactive Thyroid Gland
Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck. It makes hormones that help manage your metabolism and other things. An overactive thyroid (called hyperthyroidism) can make too much thyroid hormone. That can speed up your heart so much that you feel it beating in your chest. Taking too much thyroid hormone to treat an underactive thyroid gland (called hypothyroidism) can also rev up your heartbeat.
Heart Palpitations: Alcohol
If you drink a lot, or just have more than usual, you might feel your heart beating faster or fluttering. It often happens on holidays or weekends, when people drink more, earning it the nickname of “holiday heart syndrome.” But for some people, it can happen even when they only drink a little bit.
Heart Palpitations: When to See a Doctor
If you’re healthy, you probably don’t need to worry about palpitations that happen once in a while and last only a few seconds. But make a doctor’s appointment if they come more often or you also have symptoms like these:
- Chest pain or pressure
- Shortness of breath