What causes an erratic heartbeat?

Heartbeat image by JASON WINTER from Fotolia.com

An erratic heartbeat, or palpitations, can cause a great deal of worry as you can feel the noticeable beating not only in your chest, but in your neck and throat as well.

A normal heartbeat is 60-100 beats per minute, but when you are experiencing an erratic heartbeat, it can feel like it is racing and even skipping beats. Palpitations are normally nothing to be concerned about unless you are experiencing an abnormal heart rhythm called arrhythmia.

Stress and Anxiety

When you are suffering from a great deal of stress or anxiety, your body can react by causing your heart to feel like it is beating erratically. You may feel more aware of your heart beating faster, or even skipping a beat. Sometimes, as you feel your heart beating out of rhythm, it can cause you to worry, which makes your heart beat even faster and harder. You may even begin to hyperventilate, another problem that can make your heart beat faster.

Medications and Supplements

Some medications can cause an irregular heartbeat. This is true for some medications used to treat high blood pressure, asthma, heart and thyroid problems. Discuss them with a doctor. Many diet and herbal supplements can also lead to erratic beating, especially when combined with certain drugs.

Caffeine and Alcohol

Drinking caffeinated beverages or alcoholic drinks can cause your heart to beat faster. These also can be present in certain foods; you need to limit them. It's not unusual for someone to notice a decrease in palpitations when they decrease their alcohol and caffeine consumption.

Anemia, Hyperthyroidism, Diabetes, or High Blood Pressure

Certain medical conditions can cause palpitations and arrhythmias, which need to be ruled out by a doctor. If you have other symptoms, tests can determine what's causing them.

Poor Blood Supply to Heart

When your heart doesn't get enough blood, the tissue, including muscle that pumps the blood and cells that conduct electrical impulses, will not be able to function properly. Many conditions can cause inadequate blood supply. Some of these include coronary artery disease (CAD), cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle), heart valve disease, heart failure and, possiby, infections.


As a smoker inhales nicotine, the nicotine begins to constrict blood vessels. As the vessels shrink, your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your body. Your heart rate goes up to make up for the extra work it has to do while pumping the blood.