Heart palpitations and ectopic beats
Heart palpitations are heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable
Your heart may feel like it’s pounding, fluttering or beating irregularly, often for just a few seconds or minutes. You may also feel these sensations in your throat or neck.
Palpitations may seem alarming but in most cases they’re harmless and aren’t a sign of a serious problem. Sometimes you may feel an extra or missed beat. These are known as ectopic beats and are also usually nothing to worry about.
Causes of heart palpitations include lifestyle triggers, emotions and psychological triggers, medication, hormone changes, heart rhythm problems, heart conditions and/or other medical conditions.
Common triggers of heart palpitations include strenuous exercise, not getting enough sleep, drinks containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea and energy drinks, alcohol, smoking, illegal drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, ecstasy and cannabis and rich or spicy foods.
In these cases, the palpitations should go away on their own. Avoiding these triggers may help stop them coming back.
Heart palpitations are also often caused by emotions or psychological issues, such as excitement or nervousness, stress or anxiety or panic attacks (an overwhelming sense of anxiety or fear, accompanied by feeling sick, sweating, trembling and palpitations).
Breathing exercises and panic attack tips may help if you’re feeling stressed, anxious or panicky.
Palpitations can occasionally be triggered by some types of asthma inhalers, such as salbutamol and ipratropium bromide, high blood pressure (hypertension), medicines, such as hydralazine and minoxidil, antihistamines, such as terfenadine, antibiotics, such as clarithromycin and erythromycin antidepressants, such as citalopram and escitalopram or antifungal medicines, such as itraconazole.
Speak to your GP if you think medication may be causing your palpitations but don’t stop taking a prescribed treatment without first getting medical advice.