Are Heart Palpitations Normal? FAQs About Heart Palpitations and Their Causes

Fact checked by Megan Soliman MD, MSc
Board-certified internal medicine physician

Heart palpitations are a form of arrhythmia that cause the rapid beating of your heart, making you feel like it’s pounding against your chest. Heart palpitations result from an irregular heartbeat that causes your heart to beat fast or slow.

The sensation is similar to the fluttering feeling you get in your chest when you’re nervous or excited. Some people describe it as their heartbeat fluttering uncomfortably inside their chest.

Over 16 percent of people experience heart palpitations at some point in their lives. However, what causes heart palpitations, and how do you know if they’re normal or something to worry about? This article will answer popular questions about heart palpitations and walk you through everything you need to know about the condition, including its causes, symptoms, and how to treat them effectively.

Are heart palpitations normal?

Have you pondered the question, “Are heart palpitations normal”? While they sometimes signal a serious medical condition, most of the time, heart palpitations are harmless.

Your heart has an electrical system that causes it to beat regularly and consistently throughout your life. A normal heartbeat is regular and evenly spaced out.

When you have heart palpitations, your heart beats more quickly or forcefully than usual or beats irregularly.

When evaluating heart palpitations, it’s important to determine if they’re the result of an underlying medical condition. While they may be harmless, if you experience heart palpitations, it’s crucial to see a doctor to get proper treatment or rule out any serious conditions.

What causes heart palpitations?

Heart palpitations are a common symptom that many people experience. In most cases, they’re harmless and don’t cause any harm to your heart or body. Some of the causes of heart palpitations include:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Dehydration
  • Anemia (lack of healthy red blood cells)
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Heart disease (e.g., hypertension, arrhythmias, angina)
  • Electrolyte imbalances (elevated levels of potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium in your blood)
An older woman having heart palpitations after eating

Several risk factors can increase your chances of experiencing heart palpitations:

  • A family history of heart problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Pregnancy
  • Too much caffeine or alcohol use (including binge drinking)
  • High salt intake
  • Taking certain medications, including some antidepressants and blood pressure drugs

Why do I get heart palpitations after eating?

Having heart palpitations after eating may occur as a result of the body’s response to the digestion of food. You may occasionally experience heart palpitations after eating if you eat too quickly. When you eat too fast, your heart has to work harder to pump the food through your digestive tract and into your bloodstream. This increased workload can cause your heart to beat faster or skip beats, and you might also have heart palpitations upon waking.

Certain foods can trigger heart palpitations after eating, such as:

  • Fatty or spicy foods
  • Foods rich in carbohydrates
  • Beverages like alcohol
  • Food containing monosodium glutamate

It’s not uncommon for palpitations to occur after eating. This is because eating causes blood sugar levels to rise and fall rapidly. The fattier and saltier the food, the greater the effect on blood sugar levels. This can cause your heart rate to speed up slightly to adjust to the new glucose levels in your bloodstream. This change in heart rate can be felt as palpitations or skipped heartbeats.

Are heart palpitations dangerous?

Heart palpitations are a common sensation in which the heartbeat feels abnormal or irregular. This begs the question: Are heart palpitations dangerous?

Not exactly. In most cases, it is a nonthreatening condition that can be related to stress and anxiety. However, heart palpitations can also be a symptom of other conditions such as thyroid disease, heart disease, or an underlying blood clotting disorder.

Take control of your well-being with WeatherWell!
Download our free app to track your symptoms and predict how the weather will affect you.
Weatherwell app screenshot

If you’re experiencing heart palpitations regularly (more than once or twice a month), it is important to see your doctor to rule out any potential underlying causes that could be dangerous for your health.

Does anxiety go hand in hand with heart palpitations?

Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear. It affects how you feel, think, and act. It is a state of worrying about something that might happen in the future. Anxiety can affect anyone at any point in life and make them feel stressed out. Anxiety can be short lived but often lasts longer than a few weeks. Some of the physical signs and symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Palpitations
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Feeling restless

Anxiety can certainly go hand in hand with heart palpitations. Palpitations are felt as a racing or fluttering feeling in the chest and may also be accompanied by difficulty breathing. The symptoms usually resolve after you have calmed down from the anxiety.

Why do I have heart palpitations when lying on my left side?

If you have heart palpitations when lying on your left, it may be because you’ve activated the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve is one of 12 cranial nerves that innervate the head, face, neck, and chest. It originates in the brainstem and travels down through the neck, supplying sensation to these areas and controlling heart rate and blood pressure.

When you lie on your left side, your body weight compresses your heart against the surface you’re lying on.

This increases blood pressure in the heart and can cause palpitations or fluttering sensations in your chest.

The easiest way to tell if this is what’s happening is to try lying on your right side instead. If you don’t have any palpitations or fluttering sensations when you’re lying on your right side, then it is likely that you are activating the vagus nerve when lying on your left.

Are there any natural remedies or vitamins for heart palpitations?

One option for some people to treat heart palpitations is to use natural remedies. Some of them include fruits and vitamins for relieving heart palpitations. They work by supplementing your body with nutrients or preventing palpitations altogether. If you’re looking for natural remedies that can help with heart palpitations, the following vitamins and minerals may be able to help:

  • Vitamin B6 helps reduce high levels of homocysteine. Having a high level of homocysteine in your blood can cause palpitations.
  • Vitamin B12 is important for maintaining good health, including strengthening muscles and nerves. It also helps your body use folic acid properly (which is required for the normal functioning of the heart).
A person choosing vitamins for heart palpitations
  • Magnesium helps regulate nerve impulses throughout your body, so it may help prevent palpitations by regulating how fast or slow your heart beats.
  • Calcium helps strengthen bones and teeth, but it also plays an important role in regulating muscle contractions in the body — including those that cause palpitations.

What’s the best treatment for heart palpitations?

There are several treatments for heart palpitations, but the best treatment depends on what’s causing your symptoms.

If you have underlying heart disease, you may need medication to treat the underlying condition. You may need counseling for anxiety, stress, or another psychological issue. If your palpitations are a result of caffeine or some other substance you consume, cutting down on these things can help. Your doctor may recommend some of the following treatments:

  • Lifestyle changes. Avoid caffeine and alcohol and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Healthy diet. Cut down on salt, sugar, and caffeine and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables with high levels of magnesium to increase the activity of calcium channel blockers and slow down your heart rate; some good sources include broccoli, spinach, and almonds.
  • Regular exercise. This has been shown to reduce stress levels and improve sleep quality — all good things for managing symptoms associated with an irregular heartbeat!
  • Hydration. Dehydration can also cause palpitations because it slightly lowers blood pressure, making it harder for the heart muscle to pump blood through the body efficiently.


Heart palpitations are a common symptom of many conditions, so it is essential to see a doctor if you’re experiencing them. Also, try not to panic — while heart palpitations can sometimes feel uncomfortable, they usually aren’t serious enough to require emergency treatment.

Your doctor can help you determine what type of condition is causing your palpitations and how best to treat it. However, if you continue having symptoms like chest pain or dizziness after visiting your doctor or trying natural remedies, seek further medical attention so they can evaluate whether something else might be happening.

March 9, 2023