Heart Palpitations | Causes & Risk Factors


What causes heart palpitations?

Many things can cause palpitations. Some causes of heart palpitations include the following:

  • Heart-related causes. People who have an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia may have palpitations. (Arrhythmia is a change in the rhythm of your heartbeat.) Most of the time, palpitations and irregular heartbeats are harmless. However, sometimes the break in your heart's normal rhythm can be a serious problem. You also may have palpitations if you have problems with the valves in your heart. Valves help move blood through the heart.
  • Non-heart-related causes. Certain medicines, herbal supplements and illegal street drugs can make your heart beat faster. Medicines that can cause palpitations include asthma inhalers and decongestants. Caffeine (found in coffee, tea and soda), alcohol and tobacco can also cause palpitations. People who have panic disorder feel their heart pounding when they are fearful of something or having a panic attack. Some medical conditions, such as thyroid disease and anemia, also can cause palpitations.

Sometimes the cause of palpitations cannot be found. This happens in about 1 of every 7 people who have palpitations. Palpitations in these people usually are not harmful.


Diagnostic Approach to Palpitations by AV Abbott, MD (American Family Physician February 15, 2005, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20050215/743.html)

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 03/14
Created: 03/05