are abnormal or irregular heartbeats that cause a thumping or fluttering feeling in your chest
— sometimes also described as "missing a beat. Palpitations can occur with heart
rates that are too rapid or too slow. They can be triggered by stress
, exercise, diet
, medication and sometimes by a medical condition. Although heart palpitations can be a worrisome or a strange experience, they're usually harmless
. In most cases, it's possible to find the cause and address it in order to reduce palpitations.
Rest and take a break. Some people experience heart palpitations due to physical overexertion or being too active; however, an increased heart rate from exercise or anxiety (called tachycardia) is not the same as palpitations. Both can happen at the same time, although palpitations are defined best as unusual heart beats
, not just fast heart beats. If your palpitations seem to be sometimes triggered by exercise, then stop what you're doing and rest for five to 10 minutes and catch your breath.
Alternatively, reduce your exertions or change your exercise to something less strenuous. Walk instead of jogging, for example. Lift smaller weights. Gently tread water in the pool instead of doing strokes.
Resting heart rates vary between people, but it's typically between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Palpitations can occur above, below or within the normal heart beat range.
Reduce your stress/anxiety. Moderate-to-high levels of stress and anxiety are relatively common triggers for heart palpitations due to the release of too much "stress hormones" into the bloodstream. Thus, you may be able to prevent or reduce your palpitations by managing how you react or respond to stressful situations. Stress-relieving techniques like yoga
, tai chi, deep breathing, visualization, meditation
, biofeedback and aromatherapy
are all helpful for promoting relaxation and better heart health.
Ask at your local gym, community center, church or health clinic about joining a yoga or tai chi class.
Taking deep breaths can naturally lower your heart rate and reduce the occurrence of heart palpitations, especially if you practice positive visualizations or guided
Buy some relaxing aromatherapy candles (lavender
scented, for example) and light them in the evenings prior to going to bed.
Don't forget to get enough sleep — at least eight hours per night, although some people need a little more. A chronic lack of sleep can lead to anxiety and heart palpitations.
Remove yourself from stressful situations, such as arguments. Quit focusing on financial problems. Stop watching scary movies or shows.
Avoid consuming stimulants. There are a number of substances that affect your central nervous system (CNS) and can trigger heart palpitations, including alcohol, caffeine
, illicit drugs (such as cocaine and amphetamines) and some over-the-counter medications (particularly cold
medicines. Thus, if you're having periodic heart palpitations, consider what you're putting into your body on a regular basis, because it could very likely be the cause.
Vagal maneuvers are simple actions that you can do at home to affect your vagus nerve, which is the primary one that regulates your heart rate.] Vagal maneuvers can slow your heart rate down and stop palpitations within seconds if done correctly. The Valsalva technique involves holding your breath
and bearing down as if you're having a bowel movement for about 15– 20 seconds — it increases your intrathoracic pressure and stimulates the vagus nerve. The Valsalva technique can change the rhythm of electrical impulses in your heart, help your heart rate return to normal and reduce palpitations.
The Valsalva maneuver shouldn't be done if you have heart disease
or are advanced in age, as it may increase the risk of stroke
. Activate your diving reflex
. The diving reflex gets activated when your head
gets cold for more than
a few seconds — your heart rate slows down to reduce blood flow in an attempt to survive, which is helpful when submerged in cold water. To trigger this survival reflex, place very cold water or an ice pack against your face for about 10 seconds. Your heart rate and palpitations should reduce pretty quickly. Dip your face or submerge your head in cold water. Put a wet face cloth in the freezer for 30 minutes then press it against your face.
Alternatively, drinking a glass of very cold water will cool the hard palate of your upper mouth
and also mildly trigger the diving reflex.
Vagal maneuvers are simple and generally quite safe to do, but they should be done as soon as you realize you're experiencing palpitations for best results.
Do not attempt vagal maneuvers while standing — they can sometimes cause dizziness
a bunch of times. You can also try coughing forcefully (or clearing your throat
) multiple times in efforts to move your diaphragm
, increase intra-thoracic pressure, and stimulate your vagus nerve. In essence, coughing creates the same physiological effects as bearing down (the Valsalva technique), but some people may find it easier to perform.
When coughing, it must be forceful enough and sustained — a single, light cough won't likely trigger a vagal response.
Make sure to completely swallow any food you're eating or beverages you're drinking in order to prevent the risk of choking.
If you're unsure, ask your doctor for a demonstration of vagal maneuvers.
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