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Causes of heart palpitations include:
Life style triggers include: strenuous exercise; not getting enough sleep; drinks containing caffeine, alcohol; smoking; recreational drugs, rich or spicy foods. In these cases, the palpitations should go away without any treatment. Avoiding these triggers may help stop them coming back.
Excitement, anxiety, stress and panic attacks can also cause palpitations. Breathing exercises and panic attack tips may help if you're feeling stressed, anxious or panicky.
A variety of medications can sometimes cause palpitations. These include asthma medications, some blood pressure medications, antihistamines, macrolide antibiotics, some antidepressants and antifungal medications. Speak to your GP if you think your medication may be the cause.
Hormonal changes during a woman’s period, pregnancy or the menopause may cause palpitations – these are usually temporary.
Specific heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, supraventricular tachycardia and ventricular tachycardias are known as arrhythmias.
Certain heart conditions associated with heart valves, enlarged heart muscles and reduced pumping ability of the heart may also cause palpitations.
Other medical conditions such as thyroid problems, anaemia, low blood sugar, fever, dehydration and a low blood pressure on standing can also cause palpitations.
You don't usually need to see your GP if the palpitations pass quickly and occur only occasionally. They're unlikely to be caused by a serious problem and probably won't need treatment.
You should see your GP if:
Your GP may arrange further tests or refer you to an outpatient clinic at your local hospital.
Call 999 or attend your local A&E if you have heart palpitations along with any of the following symptoms
These symptoms could indicate a serious or potentially life threatening heart problem that should be checked by a doctor as soon as possible.
The information in this article is for guidance purposes only and is in no way intended to replace professional clinical advice by a qualified practitioner.
Publication Date: July 2022
Review Date: April 2025