Flip-flopping in your chest. Pounding in your throat. Rapid beats that make you feel a little lightheaded. All these and more are signs of a common phenomenon: heart palpitations.
Palpitations are irregular heartbeats, and they can draw your attention to your heart and make you wonder if something is wrong. Most of the time, palpitations aren’t a sign of something more serious — but it’s important to know when to get your heartbeat checked out by a pro.
Kunal Patel, MD, and our team at NJ Cardiovascular Institute provide comprehensive heart care. Lots of people ask us if they should be concerned about their heart palpitations, and here’s our answer.
The most common causes of heart palpitations
Your heart follows a normal rhythm, but it’s not unusual for that rhythm to get disrupted occasionally. Your activity level, your emotional state, and even the foods you consume can change your heart rhythm.
A few of the most common causes of palpitations are:
- Hormonal changes
- Stimulants, like caffeine or nicotine
- Strenuous exercise
- Strong emotions, like anxiety, stress, or panic
Heart palpitations due to these factors are temporary, and they usually aren’t cause for concern.
When to go to the doctor for heart palpitations
Most of the time, heart palpitations aren’t a sign that something is wrong with your heart. However, about one in 18 Americans has an arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat. Arrhythmias require medical care, so it’s important to get your heart palpitations checked out if:
You get heart palpitations frequently
Almost everyone experiences palpitations at some point, but they’re usually fairly infrequent. Make an appointment with Dr. Patel if you regularly get more than six heart palpitations in one minute or if you get three or more palpitations at a time. You should also talk to Dr. Patel if you experience a sudden change in palpitations.
You’re at risk for heart disease
Heart palpitations could be a sign of heart disease, a group of conditions that limit your heart function and put your health at risk. Anyone can get heart disease, and factors that increase your risk include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Physical inactivity
- Poor diet
Talk to Dr. Patel about your heart palpitations if you’re at risk of heart disease or if you have a history of heart disease.
You have additional symptoms with palpitations
In rare cases, heart palpitations could be a sign of a heart attack. Call 911 if you get palpitations along with:
- Chest pain or pressure
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Excessive sweating
- Fainting or loss of consciousness
These symptoms could indicate that you’re having a heart attack. A heart attack is a medical emergency.
If you’re worried about your heart, don’t hesitate to get it checked out. Dr. Patel and our team run diagnostic tests to evaluate your heart health and pinpoint the cause of your discomfort. Once we know what’s causing your palpitations, we work with you to develop a treatment plan.
Contact NJ Cardiovascular Institute online or call one of our offices in Elizabeth, Lakewood, Paramus, or Secaucus, New Jersey, to make your first appointment.