Are heart palpitations serious?

Fluttering in the heart (heart palpitations) is a common symptom with varying degrees of seriousness. In some cases it's benign and has no affect on your heart health while in others it could be more malignant or cause problems. In general, fluttering usually means that you're having extra beats in your heart. It could be a few extra beats from the top chamber, which are called premature atrial contractions (PACs), or a couple extra beats in the bottom chamber, which are called premature ventricular contractions (PVCs). A couple of extra beats here and there does not mean anything malignant or harmful.

Nevertheless, it could also mean that you have atrial fibrillation—a condition in which there are a lot of chaotic movements in the top chamber electrically. This could increase your risk of stroke and heart failure.

Linda Martinez
Cardiac Rehabilitation Specialist

Palpitations are very common. In general, palpitations are an unpleasant awareness of one's heart beat. In most cases, they are more annoying than serious. They often occur if one is anxious, upset or angry and this would be considered a normal response to those emotions. You should seek help for palpitations if they cause, near fainting, fainting, shortness of breath or chest pain. If palpitations interfere with your ability to function they should also be evaluated. You do not necessarily need to go to a heart specialist for palpitations. Your primary provider can order a recording device that can be used to help diagnosis the cause of abnormal palpitations.

Heart palpitations are usually harmless, but in rare cases heart palpitations may be a symptom of a serious heart condition. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Heart palpitations are the feelings of having rapid, fluttering or pounding heartbeats.” Heart palpitations may be triggered by stress, exercise, medication or, in rare cases, an underlying heart or medical condition. Anyone that develops heart palpitations should seek immediate medical attention if they experience shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting or chest pain along with the palpitations.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.