Palpitations mean you’re aware of your heart beating in your chest and/or in your throat. Your heart is pounding, skipping a beat or beating very fast. This can make you feel very restless. And your thoughts can subsequently quickly turn to something serious, like a heart attack or a heart rhythm disorder. However, for most people who experience palpitations it’s nothing serious. For example, palpitations are quite normal if you’ve been exercising intensively or if you’re struggling with stress. Other causes for an increased heart rate are:
- Unhealthy eating and drinking habits. For example, you’re eating too much greasy food and/or drinking too much caffeine.
- Alcohol and drug use.
- An over-active thyroid.
- High blood pressure.
- Staying at a high altitude. For example, if you live in the mountains.
- An underlying health condition, like pneumonia.
- The use of, for example, prednisone or certain ADHD medications.
A normal heart rate is 60 to 90 beats per minute. This can increase to 160 beats per minute through intensive exercise. Resting afterwards will usually bring your heart rate back to normal.
Palpitations are often accompanied by several other symptoms. The symptoms you can experience include:
- A rapidly beating heart.
- A restless feeling.
- A sudden irregular heartbeat. For example, your heart may beat fast at first and then slowly.
- A pounding heartbeat. This can feel very worrying.
- A fast heartbeat which you don’t notice yourself.
- Dizziness and light-headedness.
- Feeling weak.
- A headache.
- A dry mouth.
- Shortness of breath and/or feeling like you can’t breathe.
- Frequent urination. This will happen often once the palpitations have disappeared.
There are a number of things you can do yourself if you’re experiencing palpitations. The following are recommended:
- Make sure you get plenty of rest and maintain a healthy day and night rhythm. Make sure you get about eight hours of sleep a day. Get up on time and go to bed on time.
- Reduce your stress. Find out what currently causes you the most stress and decide what you can do about it. Does your work result in a great deal of stress? Talk about this with colleagues you trust, your manager and/or with your company doctor. It can also help to make a clear and well-organised schedule for your activities. Do you have any financial worries, or are there other problems you feel you can no longer solve on your own? Then get in touch with your municipality’s social district team. They employ social workers who would be more than happy to think along with you.
- Talk to friends and/or relatives who can support you. Do you have no or a limited network? And do you want to develop this? Then you can also contact your municipality’s social district team.
- Eat healthily. Eat enough and high-fibre food.
- Reduce or stop your alcohol consumption.
- Do not drink caffeinated drinks.
- Stop smoking.
- Don’t use drugs. Do you use drugs and are you addicted? Then gradually reduce this. Always ask a doctor for advice. For example, your GP or an addiction specialist.
- Use medication (beta blockers) for the palpitations.
Palpitations can also be an indication of a serious condition, like a heart rhythm disorder. That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your symptoms. For example, you’ll need to urgently call your GP or 112 if you have one or more of the following symptoms:
- You’re very short of breath. You’re finding it hard to breathe.
- You have severe chest pain or pressure. This doesn’t go away after a few minutes.
- You are restless, pale, nauseous and sweaty.
- You feel like you’re going to faint or completely lose consciousness.
Make an appointment with your GP if:
- You have palpitations and they don’t go away after resting.
- You suddenly have an irregular heartbeat. Your heart will beat very fast for a while and then very slowly for a while.
- You have palpitations and you are predisposed to a heart rhythm disorder. This means it occurs more often in your family.
- You are addicted to alcohol and/or drugs and want to be helped.
Your GP will then investigate the cause of your palpitations. He or she will refer you to a specialist in the hospital if necessary.