How to Stop Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations. Don’t these two words make you shudder with anxiety?

Well, maybe the words don’t, but the sensations caused by heart palpitations certainly do scare people.

In fact, it’s the main topic of emails that I get from people who contact me with questions.

And given that this anxiety symptom is so common among anxiety sufferers, I thought it would be helpful to do a “how to” article on palpitations.

First, a few basics. A heart palpitation is an abnormal beating of the heart AND your heightened awareness of your heart beat. Palpitations can cause your heart to beat fast (tachycardia), slow (bradycardia), flutter, or to even have ‘skipped’ heart beats (PVCs).

Heart palpitations can be caused by electrolyte imbalances, adrenaline, anemia, heart disease, arrhythmias, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and of course, anxiety disorders. There are more causes, but the ones listed are common.

Now, because heart disease could be involved, it’s always a good idea to see your doctor if you’re experiencing new or ongoing heart palpitations.

No need for fear, this is mainly a precaution to safeguard your health and your sanity. When you go to your doctor he/she will run an ECG and take some blood. If the results come back negative, then you can start your efforts to stop your heart palpitations without having to worry about having a heart attack.

How Palpitations Work

When related to anxiety, heart palpitations are triggered by the fight or flight response. If you’ve had problems with anxiety for any length of time then I highly recommend that you get acquainted with this term.

This is because the fight or flight response is the source of much of your misery, and a detailed understanding of it can help you to reduce stress. Because with knowledge comes less guess-work, more facts, and less anxiety.

So then, the fight of flight response is essentially your sympathetic nervous system gone wild. When you become scared, nervous, and worried, your brain will trigger a fear response, which, in turn, causes your body to undergo  a few changes, like:

  • Palpitations
  • Cold/Hot flashes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Urge to urinate
  • Diarrhea
  • Tunnel vision
  • Muscle tension

It’s also important to point out that palpitations are almost always accompanied by anxiety and panic.

Part of what also happens when the fight or flight response is triggered is that the brain signals the body to release stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, in preparation for violent action. But, in your case, there is no action to be taken.

The adrenaline and cortisol however  still get injected into your bloodstream, where it acts on the nerves of the heart and causes palpitations. So, in most cases, it’s adrenaline causing all the havoc but, there could also be other causes.

One such cause is electrolyte imbalance. Electrolytes are electrically charged ions. They include elements like: sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, sulfate, phosphate, bicarbonate, and magnesium.

These elements are important in maintaining proper voltage levels in the body, and are also critical to muscle function. The heart, as we all know, is a big muscle. If these electrolytes become imbalanced then palpitations can occur.

This is because electricity and contraction are what makes your heart beat and keep a rhythm. If there is a disruption in the electrical impulse, or the contraction of your heart muscle, then you get things like a fast, slow, or weak heart beats.

How to Stop Heart Palpitations

There are several ways to stop palpitations. If you’ve been cleared of heart disease by your doctor the following techniques can be effective.

1. Balancing electrolytes: When it comes to matters of the heart, the four most important electrolytes are potassium, calcium, sodium, and magnesium. If any of these electrolytes become too high or too low then palpitations may result.

A simple blood or urine test will tell your doctor if this is the case. If you have excessive/deficient levels of electrolytes then you can speak with your doctor about how to bring them back into balance.

In general, this would mean taking supplemental vitamins or increasing/decreasing the consumption of certain foods.

List of foods rich in the four major electrolytes include:

Potassium – See full list here.

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Milk
  • Orange Juice
  • Potatoes
  • Raisins
  • Wheat bread

Calcium – See full list here.

  • Dairy Products
  • Almonds
  • Beans
  • Tofu
  • humus
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Oatmeal

Sodium – See full list here.

  • Meats
  • Dairy products
  • Frozen foods
  • Snack foods
  • Canned food
  • Spices

Magnesium – See full list here.

  • Nuts
  • Cooked soybeans
  • Peanut butter
  • Yogurt
  • Milk

2. Diet: Diet is an important part of any anti-palpitation strategy. Here are a few more examples.

Foods that you want to eat more often would include:

  • Grapes
  • Guava
  • Honey
  • Fresh fruit and Vegetables
  • Whole wheat foods

Foods and activities that you should try to avoid include:

  • Foods that contain caffeine like chocolate, soft drinks, etc.
  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking

3. Hydration: Water is a fundamental part of what you are. If you don’t drink enough water then even mild dehydration can create palpitations. You don’t need to go overboard and start walking around with a gallon of water, either. Many of the foods you eat already have water in them, but it’s still a good idea to drink about 5-8 8 oz cups per day.

4. Medication: You may also want to talk to your doctor about medications. Doctors will usually prescribe beta blockers, which block the effects of adrenaline on the body. This would be a good option after experiencing palpitations for a prolonged period of time.

5. Valsalva Maneuver: This technique can be used to stop a fast heart beat. First, pinch your nose and close your mouth. Next, breath out forcibly. The idea is to strain as if you were trying to defecate while holding your breath. This will cause a quick spike in heart rate, followed by a slowing of the heart rate. If you have heart disease, or are advanced in age, please do not try this maneuver.

6. Coughing: Coughing vigorously causes pressure to build in your chest, which “squeezes” your heart back into a normal rhythm. This is not a preventative measure, so do it when you’re actually having a palpitation.

7. Cold Water: Splash cold water on your face. This technique works well for palpitations and panic attacks. The idea behind this is that the cold water shocks your nervous system back to normal. The water should be as cold as possible.

8. Relax: Palpitations can strike at anytime, even while you sleep. As a result, they tend to startle you and make you feel as if you’re going to die at any moment.

This is why it’s important to not rush around in a panic, thereby adding stress to your racing heart. It’s best to have a seat, breath deeply from your stomach, and chill out for a moment.

9. Exercise: Exercise might sound like the opposite of what you want to do when you know that palpitations can occur. But after a good workout your blood pressure and heart rate will generally decrease.

This is why it’s not unusual for highly conditioned athletes – like Lance Armstrong – to have very low resting heart rates. A normal resting heart rate is between 70-80 beats per minute.  People that have conditioned bodies, on the other hand, can get their heart rates down in the 50′s or lower.

Let’s not forget that the heart is a muscle, and if it is worked, it will get stronger and more efficient and what it does. So despite the apparent contradiction, exercise is a great way to cope with palpitations absent any heart disease.

Caution: If your palpitations are accompanied by dizziness, blurred vision, chest pain or shortness of breath, then it could be something more serious. The unfortunate reality is that panic attacks and intense anxiety can mimic symptoms of a heart attack.

One of the tell-tale signs of something serious is severity and duration. If you have chest pain or the like continuously for more than a few minutes, and if the pain is severe, you likely have a problem. Always err on the side of caution though  and get checked out if you’re just not sure.

If, on the other hand, you’ve already been screened for heart disease and nothing was found, wait. Be patient and wait about ten minutes and the symptoms will usually die down on their own.

I know that heart palpitations can be frightening, but they are usually not dangerous. That’s why I encourage you to see your doctor if you haven’t already. Because once you’re cleared medically, you will have the confidence needed to cope with the fear tied to palpitations.

Understand that heart palpitations are a very normal part of having an anxiety disorder and stress in general. When they happen don’t over think things and start jumping to conclusions. Instead, try some of the techniques outlined above and try the best you can to not shock yourself with fear. I hope this helps.

 

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Comments

  1. Jude says

    Not sure if this post will get thru none of my others have so i might as well make is short!I miss hearing from everyone this new format doesnt seem to be working well . Amy you asked for my email it is treelove243@gmail.com love to hear from you sometime.

  2. Amy says

    Since the posting on this site is not going well, I’m offering my e-mail address if anyone wants to contact me with your e-mail address and don’t mind sharing it with others, maybe we can get an e-mail group going at least. Or something! So, it’s amy345@windstream.net.

  3. says

    Hi All, Your comments are coming through they are just being approved slowly. I’ll try to update them at least once a day moving forward. Thank you!

    Paul

  4. Floey says

    How is everyone doing here?!?! Sorry I’ve been MIA for so long. Updates pleaseee! Por favor.

  5. Stephan says

    Hey guys,

    I’m trying to find a resolution to get us all in constant contact with each other…

    Jude and Amy both put their email addresses on here, if you want to keep up with the group on a more personal level please email one of them – just read the comments and the addresses are in there somewhere.

    GARY – please post something – or even your email address again – we can’t find it and I’m curious how you are doing.

    MODERATOR – please have some compassion on us and fix this site! Ever since the changes no one is using your site any more. This place was a source of healing for many of us!

    I’ve been doing great – been anxiety drug free for about a month and haven’t had any real issues. Occasional PVC but thankfully no big runs like I was having. Of course, I stopped exercising like I was because that was becoming a huge source of fret and fear. Been watching calories more than anything.

    Praying everyone out there is doing well! Please post!!!! As previously stated, Jude and Amy were brave enough to share their emails… please email them and get onto our thread!

  6. Jude says

    Hi Josh. I miss talking to you too and have been thinking about how you are going.Have managed to get email contact with Amy and Stephan and starting a chat thru emails so please join us! My email is treelove243@gmail.com Amy has also posted hers above too if cant get thru on mine.Hopefully Floey does too.

  7. louise-x says

    Well ive suffered from heart palpitations since I was 17 and im now 27 and dc still cant find out the cause ive had two ECG over the past 10 yrs which both came back fine and so did all my blood tests. Problem is I dont just get palpitations occasionally like most of you I have then constantly until I get meds and then after 4 months on meds my palpitations and shaking from inside my body Slowly decreases.Ive learnt to kinda cope with them now but still cant get used to lightheaded feeling and the panic attacks.

  8. Kimmie says

    I’ve been having 10-20 maybe more actually heart palps a day for a week, I’m trying not to freak out, any suggestions

  9. LH says

    Very well explained… This coming from a Panic Disorder sufferer x 15+ years and a knowledgeable medical professional.
    It’s still awful to experience, even with a solid understanding and a long history :(

  10. Audrea says

    Iv been on Zoloft for 3mnths. Alot of sideeffects. Liver Enzymes shot up but were normal b4 I got Zoloft in my system. Lots of sideeffects. Diaherra, bruising, enzymes shot up to in the low 50′s. Normal I think is undet 30 or 20? Anyway, addiction psychiatrist said stop the 50mg Zoloft I was on for 3mnths just about because of sideeffects. Just stop it cold turkey. I looked it up an says not to ever stop antidepressants cold turkey. So its my body an I decided to start weaning but I think its to fast. In 11 days went fr 50mg to 12.5mg. 3 days ago, when I started the 12.5mg started having palpitations every now an then. Still having them. Got about 12 12.5mg left. All this palpitations started when I went down on dosage. Called two pharmacists they ssid sounded fast to wean. Could cause palpitations. Due to your body freakin out without the Zoloft effect on chemicals in brain. They said keep on 12.5 an last 4 go every other day. Then Ill have to stop. I must be sensitive to Zoloft I guess. Has anyone experienced this b4 an can that happen? I also take Clonapine whenever necessary. Im recovering Tramadol addict. No pills since may 12th. They put me on Clonapine after detox. I was ok. Then a N.P. started Zoloft an had probs ever since. I do think I have anxiety but I think palpitations r fr rapid drop in brain chemicals Serotonin, norepinephrine an dopamine. Ill try more water an electrolytes I guess. I see Cardiologist on Sept 3rd. Any ideas would help. Its quit irritating getting fluttering 6x’s a day since Thurs. Thanku. Aud.

  11. Wayne says

    Just reading all your comments guys and I feel for you. Been through many of them issues myself for the past 13 months. Its been quite tough at times so I know exactly what you mean. Insomnia, feeling wired, agitated, lightheaded, nauseus, palpitations. It can seem never ending at times.

  12. Florian says

    Hello all,
    I am 26 years old and I’ve never really had any issues with anxiety for the first 25yrs of my life but for some reason after I turned 26 I became vet conscious of my health and began over thinking a lot of the stuff I had been feeling.I don’t know exactly when it began but I think it all started after I talked to my father in law about this weird heart fluttering sensation I occasionally had.once I said it out loud it was as if I was recognizing that there was indeed a problem and 4 days later I was in the hospital because I had this tightness in my chest and it felt as if the end was near.The doctors cleared me and said that I was physically healthy.I was ok for about a month and then it was back.i felt a awkward fluttering of the heart and in the moments that this would happen I thought my heart was going to fail.its odd to me because I’ll will be ok for weeks and then it gets bad for like a week.all of this has caused me to be anxious in anticipation of the next time it will happen.wen I’m anxious it feels like my brain is in overdrive and I can feel adrenaline shooting up the back of my neck.it literally feels like I’m losing my mind.i work the early shift at work so I’m up early and on the days I’m anxious I can’t sleep,so I lay in bed dreading work because I’m exhausted.sometimes its really hard to believe that’s it’s just anxiety.like I said the first 25 yrs of my life I was ok and now there’s always this lingering fear of the darkness.

  13. swadesh says

    i am 19 yrs old guy recently i had a very difficult situation about my family so i used to too stressed about it and after months i had hemmoroids operation due to which i am suffering from post epidural puncture headache and now a days i am felling like i am dying so there is anxiety which is causing heart palpitation an high heart rate how can i be cured ?

  14. Janet says

    louise x, could you please email me at rykerjem860@outlook.com
    After 40 pills of levaquin my body was blown out like I was electroctuted. I sting all over and have pounding heart, it is not high but pounds non stop 247. When the stinging all over happens the heart goes down so it is something to do with nerve damage but I cant do it much longer. The terrors and feeling like I am on 100 cups of coffee.
    I tried a beta blocker but no luck. I am either stung to death all over or the heart pounding, it alternates. Can someone help me. I never had this until my body went off like a bomb form the levaquin.. I want to die it is so torturous 247.

  15. Shannon says

    I have had palpitations for 4 days now. I got a massage and later that day my palpitations started. I’ve been to 2 different ER and the 1st one only did an EKG and there was a PVC on there. They just said its anxiety. I’m not a fan of that word I don’t think I have anxiety. The 2nd hospital actually hooked me up and watched me for little over and hour. I had a lot of PVC. I see a cardiologist in 2 days I am also 28 years old female and mother of 5 just want everything to be ok

  16. Johnnielynn says

    Hi I’m 25 I got diagnosed with bradycardi with the flutter heart beats, heart stopping resting it self, the palpatation problems for three yrs now my doctors thought I had epilepsy but found out I have psychogenic non epileptic seizures for stress seizures forms from childhood to adulthood and anxiety disorders alondg with it my doctors and specialist tell me a mom of two I can no longer work because my stress seizures cause blank stairing that I’ve had since childhood and I can no longer driver so I do know how some you feel it’s hard

  17. says

    This is very informative. I think exporing relief options is calming in and of itself. I’ve had crazy palpitations at all odd times and whenever i don’t have them i think wow they’re gone. The cool thing is, I love the Lord and know He cares for me. This will not last. you/I will not suffer forever. Think of it as something your body is going through. Adjust your busy-ness,take time to do nothing and without a cell phone. If you don’t know Jesus, get to know Him. I honestly don’t know how anyone without faith in the Lord can survive in this world. Blessing to all who stumble upon this. Consider this a shout of from God to draw near to Him. Pray. He’s there…always has been, always will.
    Philippians 4:6 [Full Chapter]
    Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
    Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad.
    Peace, salvation and eternal life are yours. see John 3:16

  18. says

    I have suffered from atrial fib for many years and controlled it with meds.
    After 20 years no meds worked, so I found out what vitamins would help
    and took those, but was still getting them. After much research I started meditating twice a day for a half hour or more, a year later my afib has stopped. Not completely but almost and no anxiety. I also got on an Alkaline Diet and that helped me the most. I thought that I would share this as no one on this site has mentioned diet or meditation. I hope this will help someone to get their anxiety and palps under control.

  19. Robyn Grace says

    Hi I’m Robyn I’m 30 I suffered from panic attacks and anxiety between the ages of 15 – 25 on and off but for some reason it’s back and much worse I suffer from palpitations that feels like my heart is fluttering at times it all started suddenly after a few very stressful days and normally starts when I start to think about it, If I relax and sleep when I wake up it’s gone but comes and goes at odd times few days ago I was on a river trip in Thailand and it was probably the most relaxing day I have had in a long time and I was fine all day but I then received an email that stressed me out that evening and it all started again it’s so frustrating.

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