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What causes heart palpitations?

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Quick Answer

There are many things that cause a person to have heart palpitations, with some of the most common being fever, stress, fear, exercise, panic attacks and illegal drug use, according to the National Institutes of Health's MedlinePlus. Heart palpitations may also be experienced by people with serious health conditions, such as, heart disease, overactive thyroid, abnormal heart valve or insufficient blood oxygen levels.

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Full Answer

People who are having heart palpitations often feel as if their heart is racing, stopping or skipping beats, according to MedlinePlus. In most cases, heart palpitations are not serious, unless a persons heart rate is above 100 beats per minute. A heart rate that is higher than 100 beats per minute is referred to as tachycardia, while a heart rate lower than 60 beats per minute is diagnosed as bradycardia.

Vitamin and herbal supplements may also cause palpitations, according to WebMD. A person whose electrolyte levels are imbalanced may experience heart palpitations. Some people have them after eating foods to which they are sensitive.

Though most cases of palpitations are harmless, they can also be a symptom of cardiovascular disease, claims WebMD. These diseases can include disorders of the coronary arteries, congestive heart failure and problems with the valves or muscles of the heart. People who have already suffered from heart attacks may also experience palpitations.

A person who believes that her heart palpitations are signs of a serious medical condition can undergo several tests, according to Mayo Clinic. The doctor listens to the patient's heartbeat through a stethoscope and takes a medical history. The doctor may also give the patient such tests as an electrocardiogram or an echocardiogram. He may have her wear a Holter monitor, which is a portable EKG device or wear an event recorder. This device allows the patient to push a button whenever she feels a palpitation.

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