Palpitations: What to Do When Your Heart Skips a Beat

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Palpitations: What to Do When Your Heart Skips a Beat

When your heart races, pounds, or flutters, you’re having palpitations. Despite their unusual nature and the fact that they tend to accompany anxious or stressful moments, heart palpitations are usually harmless, and you can deal with them on your own.

Your heart is central to your life and health, so anything that affects its normal clockwork rhythm is cause for concern. Heart palpitations -- the feeling that your heart is beating too fast, too hard, or too haphazardly -- can cause worry, particularly since during periods of strong emotion or stress. 

Usually, though, short-duration palpitations that happen infrequently aren’t a health concern. In rare cases, they can be signs of more serious heart conditions, though typically, these palpitations will be more frequent and more intense. 

When a heart incident has you concerned, visit the experts at ARK Cardiovascular Center at the nearest of their four locations. Otherwise, read on to learn more about incidental palpitations and what to do when they affect you. 

Causes of heart palpitations

Stress and strong emotions are perhaps the most universal cause of palpitations. If you’re suddenly frightened, the resulting shock can cause a temporary change in your heartbeat. The same is true of any condition that causes a strong emotional reaction like anxiety or panic attacks.

However, there are other situations that can trigger palpitations. That extra cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage might set your heart racing, as can some medications, such as those containing pseudoephedrine. Using nicotine products, including cigarettes and patches, can spin your heartbeat in odd ways. You may have palpitations when you’re dehydrated. 

Sometimes, hormone changes can affect your heart rhythms. This is common for women during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, while people with over or under-active thyroids could also experience palpitations. 

Heart palpitations are a symptom of arrhythmia, a serious heart condition in which your heart might beat too slowly, too quickly, out of normal rhythm, or all three. Seek medical help if your palpitations occur simultaneously as chest pain, breathing difficulties, dizziness, or fainting. 

What to do when you experience palpitations

There are sometimes things you can do to ease palpitations when they occur. Consider each of these techniques and choose those that match the reasons behind your palpitations, if you know what they are. 

Relaxation techniques

When palpitations stem from stress or strong emotion, taking charge of your breathing and centering your psyche is a natural way to bring your heartbeat back in line. Practice controlled breathing, meditation, yoga, nature walks, or simply take a time-out away from stressful stimuli. 


Dehydration means that your blood volume decreases, and your heart works harder. The answer to occasional palpitations may be as simple as upping your fluid intake. Climbing heart rates are a common symptom of dehydration. 


Electrical signals trigger your heartbeat, and molecules called electrolytes help transfer these signals. Calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium are minerals readily available in a balanced diet. Increasing water intake can throw off your electrolyte balance so pay attention to calcium, magnesium, and potassium intake. You’re probably already receiving enough sodium. 

Eliminate stimulants

Cut back on caffeine. If you drink coffee by the pot, this step alone may cause palpitations to vanish. Over-the-counter cough and cold products are also possible contributors, as are some prescription medications for blood pressure. 

When concerns arise about palpitations, call or click to connect with the nearest ARK Cardiovascular Center office. Our team can help you understand your heart function while ruling out serious conditions. Book your consultation today.