Heart palpitations: A cause for concern?

content provided by mayoclinic.com

Heart palpitations: A cause for concern?


Can heart palpitations be a sign of a serious, underlying heart condition? I sometimes experience heart palpitations at night that keep me awake for hours.



Heart palpitations cause the sensation of rapid, fluttering or pounding heartbeats. Although heart palpitations can be worrisome, they're often harmless. Common causes of heart palpitations include:

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Exercise
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Fever
  • Hormone changes associated with menstruation, pregnancy or menopause
  • Certain medications, such as pseudoephedrine, an ingredient in some cold and allergy medicines

Often the cause of heart palpitations can't be determined. However, occasionally, heart palpitations can be a sign of a serious, underlying problem such as hyperthyroidism or an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). Arrhythmias may include very fast heart rates (tachycardia), unusually slow heart rates (bradycardia) or an irregular heart rhythm (atrial fibrillation).

If you're concerned about heart palpitations, consult your doctor. He or she may recommend further evaluation such as heart monitoring tests. Seek prompt medical attention if heart palpitations are accompanied by:

  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Fainting

Last Updated: 04/27/2007
© 1998-2016 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Terms and conditions of use


Bookmark and Share   E-Mail Page   Printer Friendly Version