We’ve all heard the adage of the heart “skipping a beat” when we’re awestruck or surprised. And while it’s quite a rare thing to happen, when our heartbeat is irregular for any number of reasons, it’s a sign that something needs to be checked out.

Heart palpitations are a sign your heart is under some form of stress. Understanding the causes, how to notice if someone has palpitations, and how to get help are important, especially if you feel palpitations have come on all of a sudden and you’re not sure why.

Let’s look a little at heart palpitations, why they happen, and when to see someone about it,

What are heart palpitations?

Palpitations are heartbeats you notice. You’ll pretty much spend all day never really noticing your heartbeat. We tend only to give it much thought when doing strenuous activity like exercising and running.

You’ll notice palpitations though because they’ll instinctively feel off. A palpitation isn’t just that the heart rate increases for no reason. Someone’s palpitations could see them with a slower heartbeat or a fluttering sensation akin to “skipping a beat”.

People tend to notice palpitations more in the throat and neck more than the chest.

Why do heart palpitations happen?

The irregular rhythm can affect people differently, and most people don’t even notice they have palpitations. In fact, palpitations can be quite frequent and you’ll find yourself getting them without much notice.

They can commonly occur when someone has had too many fizzy drinks, drank too many cups of coffee throughout the day, or been drinking and not staying hydrated. Another example happens when people are sunbathing and notice that even though they aren’t doing anything strenuous, their heartbeat will feel irregular. 

What causes palpitations?

There are many reasons someone can have heart palpitations. I’ve just mentioned how certain drinks play a role, but anything from over-exercising to a lack of sleep are lifestyle triggers which the heart reacts to. Lifestyle triggers can account for the sensation when it rarely happens for most of us, but there are other ways our heartbeat can get out of sync.

Palpitations can also be caused by:

  • certain medicines someone may be on
  • hormonal problems; particularly for females during their period or menopause
  • existing heart rhythm problems
  • emotional triggers like nervousness and panic attacks
  • undiagnosed heart conditions; congenital heart disease being very common

When are palpitations a problem?

For most of us, heart palpitations won’t cause any issues if they’re infrequent and aren’t putting the heart under any major stress. 

Someone would want to see their doctor is they felt any of the following:

  • Palpitations happening in bouts
  • Feeling tired and lethargic while noticing your heartbeat
  • You have other heart problems and have just noticed palpitations

Palpitations can be a more severe problem when someone starts showing some of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain 
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Fainting

When any of these happen, it should not be ignored, and someone should see their doctor right away.

What tests would someone with palpitations have to take?

If you’d like to read more information on how palpitations are treated, OneWelbeck Cardiology has information on what visiting a Heart Palpitations Specialists is about, and how heart issues are diagnosed.

Are you looking to improve your heart health?

Read some of the latest posts from the health section of the site, with helpful articles on keeping your heart healthy.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "Understanding what heart palpitations are telling you," in Medicalopedia, May 30, 2020, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/8941/understanding-what-heart-palpitations-are-telling-you/].