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Heart palpitations come on quickly and make it feel like your heart is pounding or racing. They may feel like you have exercised or they may feel like a flutter, a skipped or extra beat, or a heartbeat that simply does not feel normal. You may feel palpitations in your chest, throat or neck.
Palpitations can happen at any time, even if you are resting or doing normal daily activities. Although they may be startling, palpitations may or may not be related to an abnormal heart rate and are often not serious or harmful.
Heart palpitations may be caused by:
Palpitations may be a sign of a more serious health problem if you also feel:
Call your doctor right away if you have these symptoms or if you also have pain, pressure, or tightness in your chest, neck, jaw, arms, or upper back; shortness of breath; unusual sweating; or if you have symptoms that are new or become worse.
It may be difficult for your doctor to figure out the cause of your palpitations, especially if you don't have palpitations during your visit. Sometimes, the cause is not known.
Keep track of your heart palpitations. Note when they happen, how long they last, how you feel and what you are doing when they start. Share this information with your doctor.
To help your doctor understand the cause of your symptoms, he or she will review your medical history, symptoms, diet, and medications and herbal products you take. Your doctor will also listen to your heart and lungs.
You may need tests, such as blood and urine tests, electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG), stress test, chest X-ray and echocardiogram (heart ultrasound). Some patients need to wear a monitor to record their heartbeat for an extended period of time. If your doctor thinks you may have a heart problem, you may have more invasive tests, such as an electrophysiology study or cardiac catheterization. Your doctor may refer you to an electrophysiologist, who specializes in abnormal heart rhythms.
You may not need any treatment for your palpitations. If the palpitations are related to certain foods or activities, you should avoid those triggers. The type of treatment that is best is based on the cause of the palpitations. If your doctor determines that you have heart disease or an abnormal heart rhythm, you may need medication, an invasive treatment, surgery or a device to correct the problem. It is important to keep all follow-up appointments with your doctor.
If you notice a sudden increase or change in the palpitations, call your doctor.
You can help prevent heart palpitations by taking the following steps:
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