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Saturday, August 30, 2008 pforrester, Community Member, asks

Q: I sometimes get this fluttering feeling in my chest that takes my breath away

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Answers (1)
Neil MD, Health Pro
8/30/08 7:13pm

Hello pforrester,


I think that from what your discribed you are having palpitations.


Palpitations are the sensation that your heart is not beating regularly: too fast, too hard, or sometimes a pounding up into your neck.  It turns out there are many different causes of palpitations, ranging from the not-so-serious to the life-threatening.   Generally speaking, palpitations are caused either from cardiac disease or non-cardiac causes.

Cardiac causes of palpitaions, which includes arrhythmias, valvular disease and cardiomyopathies, are concerning causes of palpitations. These are caused by abnormal electrical conduction in the heart, leading to an irregular and/or too-fast heart rate.  They can commonly be associated with shortness of breath.

Though it seems like these occurrences resolve on their own, part of the concern is that the irregular rhythm will not return to a normal rate.  When your heart pumps too fast, it does not allow for adequate filling of the heart with blood and therefore your heart cannot pump enough blood to your vital organs.


Some examples of non-cardiac causes of palpitations include the ingestion of too much caffeine (contained in coffee, teas, and chocolates).  Also, a overactive thyroid gland can cause your heart to feel like it is beating too fast.  Anxiety and depression are often overlooked causes of palpitations.


Since you have palpitations, it is a good idea to make an appointment with your physician so you can figure out the cause of your symptoms.  Discussing with your doctor what exactly your palpitations feel like, when they come on, how long they last, and what makes them better or worse will be important to figure out their cause.  Tests she is likely to prescribe are blood work (a complete blood count, electrolytes, thyroid stimulating hormone) and an EKG.  You may also be asked to wear a home monitor to record your heart beat throughout the day.


To your health,

Neil MD

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By pforrester, Community Member— Last Modified: 06/20/12, First Published: 08/30/08