What are palpitations?

Palpitations are abnormality of heartbeat that ranges from skipped beats to rapid or accelerated heart rates. They can cause a more noticeable heart beat to feeling of dizziness, chest pain, or shortness of breath.

Palpitations are often benign, but can also be symptoms of heart disease. At Beverly Hills Cardiology, we can treat heart conditions of all kinds, including palpitations.

What Causes Palpitations?

Palpitations can be caused by abnormal beats either from the top (Atrium) or bottom chambers of the heart (Ventricle).

In benign cases they can be premature atrial contractions (PACs), when from the top chambers of the heart, or premature ventricular contractions (PVCs), when from the bottom chambers of the heart. In more serious conditions, they can be due to serious diseases such as atrial fibrillation, super ventricular tachycardia, ventricular tachycardia, or fibrillation.

Palpitations may be brought on by stress, overexertion, anxiety, fatigue, dehydration or a panic attack. Alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, energy drinks, cocaine or amphetamines can exacerbate symptoms.


You cardiologist will try to evaluate to see if palpitations are brought on by heart’s natural response to stress or an electrical problem that causes the heart to beat abnormally at fast or irregular pace.

Is symptoms seem to come during times of stress or exertions and gradually improve, they may be due to stronger, faster beating that occurs during these episodes. However, if symptoms occur at rest, if they start suddenly at unpredictable times, or if they are associated with chest pain, dizziness, lightheadedness or feeling of passing out, then an abnormal electrical rhythm is more likely the cause.


The best way to diagnose an abnormal heart rhythm causing palpitations is to get an electrical recording of the heart at the time of the symptoms. Rarely are symptoms long enough for an ECG to be performed during an episode. Otherwise, your cardiologist who is investigating the cause of palpitations may give you a heart monitor to use at home. This may start out as a 24 hour Holter monitor and if needed longer term event monitor can be performed as well.

Additionally, blood tests will evaluate for hormonal or chemical abnormalities. A treadmill stress test may be used to bring out symptoms and abnormal rhythms with exercise. An ultrasound of the heart, Echocardiogram, can be helpful in evaluating for possible underlying structural heart abnormalities.

In order to discover more about palpitations and its potential causes and ramifications please view this PDF by the American Heart Association.

If you feel that you have something different then a heart palpitation visit our conditions page for a complete list of conditions. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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