What Can Cause a Heart Palpitation?

Written by jessica reed
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What Can Cause a Heart Palpitation?
("Heart Palpitations." [Online image] Available http://www.pted.org/?id=hypertrophic4, 18 May 2009.)

Heart palpitations can occur because of a medical condition, a side effect to a specific medicine or food, or be completely unrelated to any disease actually related to the heart. While experiencing heart palpitations can seem scary at first, they are rarely a symptom of a major disease or problem. Learn some of the common causes for heart palpitations and how they are treated.


Heart palpitations occur when the heart beats faster and harder than it should. People with heart palpitations may notice their heart is racing or skipping beats, even if they haven't been doing any strenuous activity. Often a patient will be sitting down or resting when his heart begins to race and beat rapidly for no apparent reason. The heartbeat can return to normal and stop racing as quickly as it started.

Panic Disorder

People with high anxiety or those who suffer from panic disorders may also experience irregular or racing heartbeats. This is caused by the body's reaction to what it sees as a stressful situation. Panic attacks can occur for no apparent reason and can cause the heart to start racing. Panic disorders are not a problem in the heart itself. They can be treated by therapy, sometimes combined with medication. Cutting caffeine from a patient's diet can also prevent heart palpitations from occurring as frequently.


Anemia is a medical condition in which the haemoglobin in the blood does not carry oxygen properly. This can cause heart palpitations as the heart has to beat faster to make up for the lack of oxygen. Anemia can also occur when the body does not receive enough iron. Mild anaemia can usually be treated easily with a change in diet to include more iron, or with medicine that helps the blood to carry the oxygen it should.

Heart Related Causes

While it is not as common, heart palpitations can be caused by a problem with the heart itself. Arrhythmia is a condition in which a patient's heart frequently beats differently than what is considered average. It may skip beats or beat faster than normal. Depending on the severity, this condition may not always require medical attention. A problem with the valves in the heart not opening or closing properly can also lead to heart palpitations that may worsen over time.


Finally, certain medications and herbal supplements can lead to heart palpitations as a side effect. This type of problem is easy to fix. If heart palpitations stop when the patient is no longer taking the medicine, the doctor can prescribes a different brand of that medicine and no further treatment is needed. Illegal drugs also can lead to heart palpitations, as can asthma inhalers and decongestants. The easiest way to clear up this problem is to stop taking the medicine. If it is a necessary medication, like an asthma inhaler, have your doctor prescribe a different brand.

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