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Heart palpitations — Common causes

Heart | April 3, 2018 | Author: Naturopath


Heart palpitations — Common causes

Have ever noticed your heart skip a beat, flutter or race? These are symptoms of heart palpitations and almost everyone has experienced this at some time in their life. Heart palpitations are not always serious and can be caused by a variety of things such as stress, alcohol, caffeine and exercise. It’s important that you seek medical advice if they don’t improve, get worse, or if you have heart problems.

What are heart palpitations?

Heart palpitations can feel like your heart is:

  • Beating faster
  • Missing beats
  • Fluttering rapidly
  • Pounding
  • Flip-flopping

You may also feel a strong pulse throughout the chest, head and neck.

Seek emergency medical attention if heart palpitations are accompanied by chest pain or discomfort, fainting, severe shortness of breath and dizziness.

Causes of palpitations

There are many causes of palpitations. They are commonly experienced when you feel:

  • Panicky
  • Stressed
  • Emotional
  • Nervous

This is due to an increase in stress hormones such as adrenaline which causes your heart to beat faster and more vigorously.

Palpitations can also be caused by -

Alcohol—some research suggests that drinking between 1-3 alcoholic drinks each day may increase your risk of atrial fibrillation. An abnormal heart rhythm that can cause palpitations, shortness of breath and dizziness. 
Click Here For Article on Atrial Fibrillation

Palpitations can also be caused by Nicotine—a stimulant found in cigarettes that can irritate the heart and cause extra beats.

Caffeine—drinks or foods that contain caffeine such as coffee, tea, cola, chocolate and energy drinks can stimulate the activity of the heart.

Exercise—especially with strenuous activity and after exercise due to adrenaline levels remaining high for a period of time.

Certain medications—some cold and allergy medications that contain pseudoephedrine can often precipitate palpitations.

Recreational drugs—the cardiovascular system, including the heart, are affected by illicit drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy.

Arrhythmias—an abnormal heart rhythm which is too fast or too slow is a common cause of heart palpitations.

Heart conditions—abnormalities with the heart such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure or heart valve/muscle abnormalities can affect how the heart beats.

Hormone changes—taking the oral contraceptive pill, missing a period or any other kind of hormonal change can cause your heart to beat irregularly.

Palpitations can also be caused by Pregnancy—significant shifts in blood volume during pregnancy puts a new stress on the heart that may bring about a tendency for a faster heartbeat.Low blood sugars—if you have gone too long without a meal and blood sugar levels plummet this can make you more susceptible to heart palpitations.

Anaemia—having anaemia means your heart pumps more blood to compensate for the lack of oxygen present. This can lead to an increase in your heart rate and palpitations.
Click Here For Article On Anaemia

Overactive thyroid—if you suffer from hyperthyroidism this can lead to palpitations and the feeling of a racing heart. This is due to the physiologic effect of thyroid hormone on the heart.
Click Here For Article 

Electrolyte imbalances—having high or low levels of electrolytes during dehydration can alter the electrical activity of the heart and lead to heart palpitations.

Low blood pressure—when your blood pressure drops too low this can lead to dizziness, nausea and heart palpitations.

Ways to help palpitations

Avoid caffeine

Caffeine is a well-known heart stimulant which can contribute to palpitations and arrhythmias. In people who experience palpitations on a regular basis it is probably best to avoid caffeine but for others with minor concerns maybe limiting consumption would be helpful. There are lots of different foods and drinks which contain caffeine including certain kinds of soft drinks, energy drinks, coffee, tea and chocolate. Even certain supplements such as diet pills and energy enhancers can contain caffeine so it’s important to read labels.


If you have low levels of electrolytes from dehydration, supplementing with a rehydration formula may be of assistance. Ask your naturopath or nutritionist for better quality formulas which contain higher amounts of minerals such as magnesium, potassium and calcium. For everyday use, supplementing with these minerals may assist with heart health and decreasing stress levels—particularly magnesium. Overall, make sure you are drinking between 2-3 litres of water daily.

Ways to help palpitationsRelaxation

If heat palpitations are due to an increase in anxiety finding ways to unwind and decompress will help to relieve your symptoms. Good options include meditation, tai chi, massage, burning essential oils such as lavender and yoga. Make sure that you allow time each day to switch off, even if it is for short periods.


Regular physical activity can help the problem by relieving anxiety and conditioning the heart. It is strenuous forms of exercise such as sprinting, weightlifting and marathons that may worsen heart palpitations.

If you notice certain activities trigger heart palpitations, you should probably modify that activity or stop altogether.

Lemon balm

Melissa officinalis (lemon balm) is an herb used in Western herbal medicine for anxiety, insomnia and restlessness. More recently, a 2015 study found that lemon balm is effective in the treatment of benign palpitations. Volunteers were assigned a 14 day treatment with 500mg of lemon balm twice daily where they recorded the frequency and intensity of palpitations as well as their psychiatric symptoms. After 2 weeks the participants reported reduced frequency of palpitation episodes and a significant reduction in anxiety compared to placebo. It was also noted that lemon balm did not cause any adverse reactions.

Other herbs which are traditionally prescribed for heart palpitations include:

  • Dong quai
  • Astragalus
  • Motherwort
  • Polygala
  • Dan shen
  • Zizyphus


  • Palpitations are usually harmless but if they persist or worsen they should be assessed as it could be a symptom of an underlying condition
  • Palpitations can be described as a fluttering, racing, pounding or flip-flopping heartbeat
  • There are various causes of palpitations including anxiety, caffeine, dehydration and low blood sugars  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Larsson SC, et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of atrial fibrillation: a prospective study and dose-response meta-analysis. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014 Jul 22;64(3):281-9

Alijaniha F, et al. Heart palpitation relief with Melissa officinalis leaf extract: double blind, randomized, placebo controlled trial of efficacy and safety. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Apr 22;164:378-84

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