Skip Navigation

  • PRINT  | 

What Are Palpitations?

Palpitations (pal-pi-TA-shuns) are feelings that your heart is skipping a beat, fluttering, or beating too hard or too fast. You may have these feelings in your chest, throat, or neck. They can occur during activity or even when you're sitting still or lying down.


Many things can trigger palpitations, including:

  • Strong emotions
  • Vigorous physical activity
  • Medicines such as diet pills and decongestants
  • Caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and illegal drugs
  • Certain medical conditions, such as thyroid disease or anemia

These factors can make the heart beat faster or stronger than usual, or they can cause premature (extra) heartbeats. In these situations, the heart is still working normally. Thus, these palpitations usually are harmless.

Some palpitations are symptoms of arrhythmias (ah-RITH-me-ahs). Arrhythmias are problems with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat.

Some arrhythmias are signs of heart conditions, such as heart attack, heart failure, heart valve disease, or heart muscle disease. However, less than half of the people who have palpitations have arrhythmias.

You can take steps to reduce or prevent palpitations. Try to avoid things that trigger them (such as stress and stimulants) and treat related medical conditions.


Palpitations are very common. They usually aren't serious or harmful, but they can be bothersome. If you have them, your doctor can decide whether you need treatment or ongoing care.

Rate This Content:
Last Updated: July 1, 2011