palpitations treatment

What are heart palpitations?

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What are palpitations?

Palpitations are a symptom or sign of a health problem rather than a condition. Palpitations are an awareness of your heart beating or the sensation that your heart is pounding or beating harder or faster than usual. It might also feel like your heart is skipping beats, racing, adding in extra beats, or beating with an irregular rhythm.

Palpitations are very common and can affect men and women of all ages, including children and teenagers. Most of the time, palpitations are harmless and not a sign of anything seriously wrong with your heart. However, they can be a symptom of many conditions that may need to be investigated and treated, so it is always best to get checked by a specialist.

Are you experiencing palpitations? Our cardiologist, Dr Syed Ahsan, treats patients with a wide range of heart-related symptoms and conditions: Get in touch via our online booking form to book a consultation or call us on 0203 303 0325.

What are heart palpitations?0:38


Are palpitations serious?

Palpitations are very common and there are many causes. These range from harmless, short-term reactions, such as drinking too much coffee or experiencing a sudden stress or shock, to medical conditions like atrial fibrillation.

In most cases, palpitations are not a cause for concern, but we must investigate your symptoms to rule out any potential underlying causes. Usually, you can take steps to manage palpitations regardless of the cause. Our blog – ‘Help, my heartbeat doesn’t feel right!’ – explains more.

What are the risks associated with palpitations?0:29


What are the causes of palpitations?

Often, there is no particular cause. However, stress, anxiety, and sleep deprivation can all lead to episodes of palpitations.

Other causes include:

  • Diabetes
  • Anaemia
  • Drugs. such as amphetamines, cocaine or cannabis
  • Certain medications, such as asthma treatments and antidepressants
  • Structural heart disease
  • Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm)
  • Stimulants, such as caffeine or energy drinks
  • Ventricular ectopics – extra beats originating from the bottom of the heart
  • Hormonal imbalances, for example, during menopause, pregnancy, or with certain thyroid disorders

There is a wide range of underlying health conditions that can cause palpitations, including those directly related to the heart and several other conditions originating elsewhere in the body.

Other conditions include supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), which leads to a racing heart rhythm associated with dizziness, shortness of breath, and atrial fibrillation, characterised by a chaotic, irregular heart rhythm.

What causes palpitations?0:30


Your first steps: do you need tests?

The first step is to discuss your symptoms with your doctor. We will talk about your general health history and any lifestyle factors that might be relevant. Then, we may perform simple tests, like listening to your pulse and heart rate and taking your blood pressure.

Palpitations don’t always require further medical investigations. Often, some simple lifestyle changes can help identify triggers and manage the episodes. We recommend following a healthy, balanced diet, exercising regularly, and having plenty of sleep.

For many people, stress and anxiety lead to palpitations. It can be very beneficial to address these and take any necessary steps to manage these. For example, discuss your workload with your boss if that is a problem or seek psychological treatments such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

I’m getting heart palpitations sometimes, is that a problem?1:00


What investigations may I need?

If your palpitations are associated with an irregular heart rate, further tests can help determine any underlying causes that we may need to monitor or treat. We may also recommend tests if you have chest pain or other heart health risk factors, or your symptoms are ongoing, making you feel unwell, tired, or breathless.

Heart health risk factors include older age and a family history of atrial fibrillation, stroke, or heart disease. Our information video on the risks of palpitations explains more.

To diagnose the cause of palpitations, you may have an ultrasound scan of the heart (echocardiogram) and receive an ambulatory ECG monitor. This will monitor your heartbeat over a long period. The results of these investigations will determine our next steps and treatment if required.

What tests are there for palpitations?0:48


Do palpitations always show up on an ECG?

Palpitations don’t always show on an electrocardiogram (ECG), but they can be useful in detecting other possible abnormalities with the heart and heart rhythm.


Dr Syed

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What our patients say

“After suffering from a heart condition for a number of years I was very happy to meet Dr Ahsan, from the first consultation where he believed there was a solution I have now completed the surgery and had my final consultation with him today…”


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