Is There a Connection between Palpitations and Heart Attack?

Cindy Quarters

Heart palpitations are when the heart’s regular rhythm is temporarily replaced by a fluttery feeling, irregular beating, or a feeling of very rapid or heavy pounding of the heart. Though these can be a bit scary, especially when felt for the first time, they are not usually harmful. If the palpitations are related to an underlying problem, however, there may be a connection between the palpitations and heart attack risk.

The anatomy of a heart attack.
The anatomy of a heart attack.

It is not always easy to determine if a fluttery feeling in the heart is s symptom of a more serious problem. Often, heart palpitations are caused by digestive problems, feelings of anxiety or stress, a fever, or vigorous exercise. Hormonal changes that occur naturally during pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause may also cause them. Different medications can lead to feelings of palpitations and heart attack, but do not necessarily increase the risk of serious complications.

Asthma inhalers may cause palpitations.
Asthma inhalers may cause palpitations.

People concerned about palpitations and heart attack potential might want to avoid some of the more common triggers for these strange-feeling heartbeats. Stimulants such as caffeine and pseudoephedrine may cause palpitations. Nicotine is often a trigger as well, as is an asthma inhaler containing any kind of a stimulant. Before making any changes to a prescribed medication it is important to check with a physician first.

Anxiety is the most common cause of heart palpitations.
Anxiety is the most common cause of heart palpitations.

To determine if there is a connection between palpitations and heart attack, there are some signs to watch for that may signal a problem. Fainting can mean that there is a serious drop in blood pressure related to the palpitations. When a person faints from an irregular heartbeat, he or she should be checked by a physician for signs of heart damage or a congenital heart problem.

Significant arrhythmias may be difficult for the average person to identify. These may be either a very slow heartbeat, known as bradycardia, or a very rapid heartbeat, called tachycardia. Another condition, atrial fibrillation, occurs when the heart beats irregularly and ineffectively. In most cases telling the difference between palpitations and heart attack when faced with such symptoms should be left up to a doctor.

Ultimately, identifying which beats signal palpitations and heart attack is difficult. The main difference between palpitations and heart attack triggers is that during palpitations the heart still moves blood effectively. If the irregular beats are related to an underlying heart problem, blood is not being pumped properly. When in doubt, it is always best to check with a doctor immediately to make sure what feels like a palpitation is not the onset of a heart attack or other serious heart problem.

Digestive problems may cause heart palpitations.
Digestive problems may cause heart palpitations.

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Discussion Comments


Heart palpitations have causes aside from heart attack like the article said. For example, dehydration or an electrolyte balance can also cause it. It can even be a side effect of medications.

I had this symptom when I first started using thyroid medications. Since thyroid hormones control things like metabolism and heart rate, it felt like I had palpitations or a racing heartbeat sometimes. But as my body adjusted, this symptom went away.


@donasmrs-- I'm not a doctor or expert but I think what this means is that heart palpitations may or may not be due to a heart attack. It's not the most commonly seen symptom of heart attacks. Most commonly seen are chest pain, arm pain and breathlessness.

I think it's a good idea to see a doctor if the palpitations do not go away. And if you have any additional symptoms that are also symptoms of a heart attack, then go to the hospital immediately. If you have underlying conditions like high blood pressure or other cardiac issues, then it needs to be checked out right away.


Does this mean that doctors don't know whether there is a connection between palpitations and heart attack? I've been experiencing heart palpitations on and off today. Should I be worried or not?

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