Have you ever felt like your heart was fluttering, skipping a beat, or pounding just a little too hard? Does it sometimes happen after one too many cups of coffee or if you’re feeling stressed over work or school? This uncomfortable and often unnerving sensation is called a heart palpitation and can be felt in your chest, throat, or neck.
Although the feeling can be alarming, they are usually nothing serious to worry about and will resolve on their own. Some causes of heart palpitations include:
- Anxiety, stress, panic attack, or fear
- Caffeine or nicotine intake
- Intense exercise
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy
However, it is important to understand that heart palpitations can be caused by serious health problems, like an arrhythmia (an abnormal heart rhythm). You might also experience palpitations for the following reasons:
- Heart disease or failure
- Abnormal heart valve, such as mitral valve prolapse
- Low level of oxygen in your blood
It is always best to consult your doctor if you are having heart palpitations for the first time or if you notice a sudden increase or change in them. Also, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms along with your heart palpitations, you should seek medical attention immediately:
- Loss of consciousness
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual sweating
- Dizziness or light-headedness
If it has been confirmed by your doctor that your heart palpitations are not caused by a serious issue, there are ways you can help prevent them from home. Try getting regular exercise, reducing your caffeine intake, or practicing deep relaxation techniques.
If you have had heart palpitations and are unsure of the source, it couldn’t hurt to visit your doctor to be sure they are not part of a larger health problem. Visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute online or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484) to schedule an appointment to learn more.
Learn more about your heart health by attending a free community heart screening.