Are Heart Palpitations Serious?

If you have the uncomfortable sensation that your heart is beating too fast, pounding too hard or skipping a beat, you may have heart palpitations. But are heart palpitations serious? 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, answers. (iStock photo)       

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 Assoc Prof Ching Chi Keong.

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Symptoms of heart palpitations

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

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Causes of 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 Assoc Prof 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

Related article: When heart palpitations become serious


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