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 Clinical Associate Professor Ching Chi Keong, Senior Consultant from the Department of Cardiology and Director for 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 to seek emergency care for serious heart palpitations.

Ref: U11

Also, check out our other articles on heart health:

Sudden Chest Pains You Shouldn't Ignore

Heart Attack in Women: How Symptoms Differ From Men

How to Survive a Heart Attack When Alone

Heart Murmurs: Which Ones are Innocent? Which are Dangerous?

Sudden Death During Exercise: How It Occurs

How a Flu-like Viral Infection Can Affect the Heart

10 Tips for a Healthy Heart