Heart palpitations

Palpitation is an awareness of your heartbeat. For example, your heart might feel like it’s pounding, fluttering or beating irregularly. This is often just for a few seconds or minutes. You may feel these sensations in your chest, throat or neck.

Palpitations might feel alarming but in most cases they aren’t a sign of any significant problems with your heart.

Phone 999 or go to A&E if:

You or someone else has heart palpitations and:

  • dizziness
  • sudden shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • loses consciousness

Speak to your GP practice if:

You have heart palpitations and:

  • they keep coming back
  • they’re getting worse
  • they last longer than a few minutes
  • you have a heart condition
  • you have a history of heart problems in your family

Causes of heart palpitations

Common causes of heart palpitations include some lifestyle factors like:


Heart palpitations can also be a side effect of some medications. This includes COPD and asthma inhalers and tablets for a thyroid problem. This may be particularly noticeable if you have just started taking the medication.

Speak to your healthcare professional if you think your medication may be causing heart palpitations. Do not stop taking a treatment without speaking to your healthcare professional first.

Hormone changes

Hormone changes can cause heart palpitations. This might happen during:

Medical conditions

Sometimes, a medical condition may cause heart palpitations. This includes:


Heart palpitations can sometimes be a symptom of an arrhythmia. Arrhythmia means there’s a problem with the heart’s rhythm.

Some common arrhythmias include atrial fibrillation and supraventricular tachycardia. If your doctor thinks that you have an arrhythmia you may be sent for some tests to assess your heart.

Managing heart palpitations


  • try to reduce your stress levels
  • practise deep breathing exercises
  • drink less caffeinated drinks like tea, coffee, energy drinks and some fizzy drinks
  • eat a healthy diet

Further support and advice

Lifestyle factors like smoking, alcohol and drugs can trigger heart palpitations.

You can get advice on giving up smoking through Quit Your Way Scotland. Phone them on 0800 84 84 84 (8am to 10pm, Monday to Friday) for further information.

Drinkline provide advice for anyone who is worried about their own or someone else’s drinking. You can phone them on 0800 7 314 314 (8am to 11pm, Monday to Sunday) for further information.

NHS inform has details of services that provide support for people affected by drugs.

Last updated:
04 July 2024