Heart palpitations can cause the sensation of a pounding heart or a fluttering in the chest. Ways of managing them include relaxation techniques and exercise. However, people with frequent or severe symptoms may need medical treatment.

Heart palpitations may occur as a result of certain lifestyle factors. Less commonly, an underlying medical condition is responsible.

Addressing the lifestyle factor or treating the underlying condition may be effective in stopping heart palpitations.

Keep reading to learn more about heart palpitations, including how to relieve them and when to speak with a doctor.

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Certain at-home techniques may help ease heart palpitations. A person can try the strategies below.

Stress can have many negative effects on a person’s health. It can induce palpitations or make them worse.

Some people may find the following relaxation techniques helpful:

Heart palpitations may become noticeable after using a stimulant.

Stimulants are present in the following:

  • tobacco products
  • certain illegal drugs
  • some cold and cough medications
  • caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea, and soda
  • appetite suppressants
  • some mental health medications

However, not all stimulants will cause palpitations in everyone.

The vagus nerve connects the brain to the heart, and stimulating it can calm palpitations. An individual can stimulate the vague nerve by:

  • holding the breath and pushing down, as though having a bowel movement
  • placing ice or a cold, damp towel on the face for a few seconds
  • splashing cold water on the face
  • chanting “Om
  • taking a cold shower
  • massaging the neck

Before trying any of these methods, it is advisable to consult a doctor, who can advise on the most suitable techniques for a person.

Electrolytes are electrically charged molecules that are present throughout the body and help with multiple functions. For instance, they play a significant role in regulating the heart rate.

An individual can boost the number of electrolytes in their body by eating foods rich in:

A well-balanced diet usually provides sufficient sodium.

The following foods have a high potassium content:

Dairy products and dark, leafy greens are rich in calcium. Vegetables, nuts, and fish also contain magnesium.

Some people may wish to attain these nutrients by taking supplements. An individual should consult a doctor before trying any supplements, particularly if they are also taking prescription medication.

When the body becomes dehydrated, the heart has to work harder to circulate blood, which can cause heart palpitations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that the recommended amount of water to drink throughout the day will vary among individuals, depending on age, sex, and pregnancy status.

The symptoms of dehydration include:

A person should consider drinking a full glass of water if they notice any of these symptoms.

Alcohol is a depressant, so it does not typically raise the heart rate.

Although drinking in moderation is not necessarily problematic, some research indicates that even having 1.2 alcoholic drinks per day can increase the risk of developing atrial fibrillation. Heart palpitations are just one symptom of this condition.

Exercise can improve overall cardiovascular health and help restore the heart’s natural rhythm. It can also help reduce stress and anxiety.

Cardiovascular exercise helps strengthen the heart, which can prevent or reduce palpitations.

Beneficial forms of exercise include:

However, exercise may trigger palpitations in some people, and it is important to identify and avoid potentially problematic types of exercise.

Anyone who plans to begin a new exercise regimen should discuss their plans with a doctor first.

The treatment for heart palpitations will depend on the cause. If there is no underlying medical condition, a doctor may seek to reassure an individual that the palpitations are not harmful.

If premature ventricular contractions cause frequent palpitations — meaning those that occur more than 10,000 times in 24 hours or account for more than 10% of all heartbeats — a doctor may recommend treatment. They may prescribe medications called beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers.

If medications do not stop frequent palpitations, a doctor may suggest catheter ablation. This involves inserting a thin tube through a blood vessel to the heart.

Other possible treatments include:

  • surgery
  • a pacemaker
  • changing medications that may be causing palpitations

A person should consult a doctor if they are experiencing heart palpitations that tend to last longer than a few seconds.

The doctor can determine whether an underlying condition is causing the palpitations.

Examples of these conditions include:

Also, a person who has had a heart attack may be more likely to develop palpitations.

Other possible causes of heart palpitations include:

  • exercise
  • stress
  • dehydration
  • illness
  • certain medications
  • illegal drug use
  • pregnancy
  • caffeine
  • tobacco use
  • excessive alcohol intake

A doctor will take a detailed medical history and perform a physical examination as part of the diagnostic process.

They may ask questions about:

  • how old the person was when symptoms began
  • what the person’s symptoms are
  • when the symptoms occur
  • if the symptoms begin slowly or suddenly
  • how long the symptoms last
  • what relieves the symptoms
  • if there are other symptoms, such as fainting, pain, or lightheadedness
  • family health history
  • social and dietary habits, including caffeine and alcohol consumption, exercise, sleep, and drug and medication use

They will also check the person’s vital signs, including blood pressure and pulse rate, and listen to their heart through a stethoscope.

If heart palpitations are not occurring at the time of the examination, the doctor may ask the individual to tap out the rhythm of the palpitations that they usually experience.

If necessary, the doctor may order blood tests to examine electrolyte, hormone, or thyroid levels. They may also use imaging studies to look at the structure or function of the heart.

One of the goals of diagnosis is to identify people at risk of arrhythmia. These individuals include those with:

  • underlying heart disease
  • dysfunction from a previous heart attack
  • idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy, which is a condition in which the heart wall thins and weakens, and the inside chamber enlarges
  • clinically significant valvular regurgitation, which is a type of heart valve disease

Heart palpitations are common, and they often last for a few seconds.

Certain lifestyle modifications can help stop palpitations and reduce their occurrence.

A person should speak with a doctor if the sensation lasts longer than a few seconds or if other symptoms accompany the palpitations. In these cases, the person may have an underlying condition that requires treatment.

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