Heart palpitations: What do they feel like?

If you have this uncomfortable sensation that your heart is beating too fast, pounding too hard or skipping a beat, you may have a condition called heart palpitations. Though heart palpitations are usually harmless, it is important to rule out any serious arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) or pre-existing heart problems.

“Heart palpitations are a very frequent symptom in the general population and it may account for about 15 per cent of clinic consultations here at NHCS,” says Adjunct Associate Professor Ching Chi Keong, Senior Consultant, Department of Cardiology and Director, Electrophysiology and Pacing, National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), a member of the SingHealth group.

NHCS has actually been seeing more patients with heart palpitations since 2008. “Our arrhythmia clinics have increased from five sessions a week in 2008 to nine sessions a week this year,” adds Dr Ching.

Symptoms of heart palpitations

  • Fluttering in the chest
  • Pounding heartbeat
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Chest discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Light-headedness
  • Fainting sensation

What causes heart palpitations?

Heart palpitations are common in all age groups. “Heart palpitations among women and younger patients usually have a benign cause. Men and older patients are more likely to have palpitations caused by arrhythmias,” says Dr Ching.

Benign heart palpitations can be triggered by:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Excessive caffeine or alcohol
  • Nicotine
  • Stimulant medications (weight loss pills, cough and cold medicine)
  • Fever

Read on to learn about when are heart palpitations serious.

Ref: U11