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Palpitations are fast, forceful heartbeats in an irregular rhythm. You may feel like your heart races, jumps, throbs, or flutters. You may feel extra beats, no beats for a short time, or skipped beats. Palpitations may be frightening, but are usually not a serious problem. It is normal to have skipped heartbeats from time to time. Palpitations can be caused by an electrolyte (mineral) imbalance, heart disease, or heart damage.


Call 911 if:

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest that lasts longer than 5 minutes or returns
    • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
    • Trouble breathing
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat, especially with chest pain or trouble breathing
  • You have weakness or numbness in your arm, leg, or face (may be on only one side of your body).
  • You are confused and have trouble speaking.
  • You have a severe headache.
  • You cannot see out of one or both of your eyes.
  • You feel too dizzy to stand.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your palpitations happen more often or get more intense.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have new or worsening swelling in your feet or ankles.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Heart medicine may be given to strengthen or control your heartbeat.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits. Bring your Holter monitor and results with you.

Keep a record:

Write down when your palpitations start and stop, what you were doing when they started, and your symptoms. Keep track of what you ate or drank within a few hours of your palpitations. Include anything that seemed to help your symptoms, such as lying down or holding your breath. This record will help you learn what may trigger your palpitations. Bring this record with you to your follow up visits.

Prevent more palpitations:

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Healthy foods will help keep your electrolytes balanced and decrease your risk for palpitations. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Liquids can prevent dehydration and decrease your risk for palpitations. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars may damage your heart and blood vessels. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Exercise as directed. Ask your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you.

© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.