Palpitations Treatment

Doctor's View on Palpitations Treatment

Comment by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

What are palpitations?

Feeling your heart beat rapidly, or skip a beat is very common. The sensation you feel when this happens is called a palpitation. Palpitations can come from isolated irregular heartbeats or electrical problems in the heart that can cause rapid, regular, or irregular heart rhythms. Most palpitations are harmless but some can cause serious symptoms or problems.

Treatment for palpitations

Most palpitations will stop on their own and do not require medical treatment. For some people, palpitations are uncomfortable. In these cases, you can do some things to avoid triggering them.

  • Reduce stress and anxiety (including panic attacks). Try alternative natural home remedies such as mediation, yoga, guided imagery, aromatherapy, or biofeedback. Doing anything relaxing will help.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol.
  • Avoid medications that are stimulants, such as cough and cold medications like pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), diet pills, or asthma inhalers. Never stop taking a medication or change the dose without first consulting your doctor.
  • Do not take illegal drugs.
  • If you are taking a medication for an underlying condition that causes palpitations, such as thyroid disease or anemia, talk to your doctor to see if there is another medication that you can take instead.

If you have underlying heart disease your palpitations may be caused by arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeat, which may be fast, slow, or irregular), or electrical abnormalities in your heart. These types of palpitations are generally more serious and require medical treatment.

  • If you have palpitations due to arrhythmia your doctor may prescribe medications or recommend medical procedures to treat the arrhythmia.
  • Medications called beta blockers are the most commonly used type of drug to treat palpitations. These drugs slow the heart rate and control the electricity flowing through the heart.
  • A medical procedure called an ablation can be performed by your cardiologist to help control palpitations from arrhythmias.

If you have palpitations along with shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, or fainting, seek medical attention immediately as these may be signs of serious heart disease.

"How Are Palpitations Treated?" National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Zimetbaum, Peter J., et al. "Overview of Palpitations in Adults." UpToDate. 8 Nov. 2012.