Causes of heart palpitations

Causes ofheart palpitations include:

Click on these links for more information about these causes.

Lifestyle triggers

Common triggersof heartpalpitations include:

  • strenuous exercise
  • not getting enough sleep
  • drinks containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea and energy drinks
  • alcohol
  • smoking
  • illegal drugs , such as cocaine , heroin , amphetamines, ecstasy and cannabis
  • rich or spicy foods

In these cases, the palpitations should go away on their own. Avoiding these triggers may help stop themcoming back.

Emotional or psychological triggers

Heart palpitations are also oftencaused by emotions or psychological issues, such as:

  • excitement or nervousness
  • stress or anxiety
  • Panic disorder an overwhelming sense of anxiety or fear, accompanied by feeling sick, sweating, trembling and palpitations

Breathing exercises and panic attack tips may help if you're feeling stressed, anxious or panicky.


Palpitations can occasionally be triggered by some types of:

  • asthma inhalers, such assalbutamol and ipratropium bromide
  • high blood pressure (hypertension) medicines, such ashydralazine and minoxidil
  • antihistamines , such asterfenadine
  • antibiotics , such asclarithromycin and erythromycin
  • antidepressants , such ascitalopram and escitalopram
  • antifungal medicines , such asitraconazole

Speak to your GP if you think medication may be causing your palpitations.But don't stop taking a prescribed treatment without first getting medical advice.

Hormone changes

Heart palpitations in women can sometimes be the result of hormonal changes that occur during:

  • periods
  • pregnancy
  • the menopause when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally

In these cases, the palpitations are usually temporary and not a cause for concern.

Heart rhythm problems

Palpitations are sometimes caused by a problem with the heart rhythm, such as:

  • atrial fibrillation a heart rhythm problem that can cause a fast, irregular heart rate
  • atrial flutter a rhythm disturbance that can be fast and either regular or irregular
  • supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) a heart rhythm problem that causes episodes of an abnormally fast but regular heart rate; it's common in young, otherwise healthy, people
  • ventricular tachycardia a more serious and typically fast, regular heart rhythm disturbance that can be associated with dizziness or blackouts

These conditions are known as arrhythmias .

Heart conditions

Some palpitations may be associated with other problems with the heart, such as:

  • aproblem withthe heart valves, such as mitral valve prolapse
  • hypertrophic cardiomyopathy where theheart muscle and walls of the heart become enlarged and thickened
  • heart failure wherethe heart is unable to pump blood around the body properly
  • congenital heart disease birth defects that affect the normal workings of the heart

Some of these conditions can beserious and often require treatment.

Other medical conditions

The followingconditions can also sometimescause heart palpitations:

  • an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) where the thyroid gland produces too much of the thyroid hormones
  • a low blood sugar level (hypoglycaemia) this is most commonly associated with diabetes
  • anaemia a reduced number of red blood cells
  • postural or orthostatic hypotension dizziness and low blood pressuretriggered by changing position (such as standing up)
  • a high temperature (fever)of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • dehydration
Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018