How Do You Stop Heart Palpitations?

Reviewed on 4/22/2022
Woman experiencing a heart palpitation and grabbing her chest
Heart palpitations do not necessarily require treatment, although home remedies can help, such as stimulating the vagus nerve, relaxation techniques, staying hydrated, and avoiding stimulants.

Heart palpitations are a type of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) in which there is a change in the heart’s sequence of electrical impulses. 

In many cases, no treatment is needed for heart palpitations and they stop on their own. 

As long as you have not been diagnosed with a heart problem or other underlying condition that causes palpitations and requires medical treatment, home remedies may help stop heart palpitations, such as:

  • Stimulate the vagus nerve, a nerve that connects the brain to the heart, to help synchronize the heart and the brain
    • Cough
    • Gag
    • Take a cold shower
    • Hold your breath while pushing out, as you might when taking a bowel movement 
  • Practice stress reduction
    • Relaxation techniques
    • Meditation
    • Yoga 
    • Journaling
    • Deep breathing 
  • Consume foods and drinks with electrolytes and stay hydrated
    • Magnesium: found in foods such as dark leafy greens and dairy products
    • Potassium: found in foods such as potatoes, bananas, and avocados
    • Calcium: found in foods such as dark leafy greens and dairy products
  • Avoid stimulants that can lead to palpitations
    • Caffeine
    • Tobacco
    • Alcohol
    • Illegal drugs 
    • Some medications (don’t stop taking any prescribed medication without first talking to your doctor)  

When treatment is needed for palpitations and certain arrhythmias, it may include:

  • Medications  
    • Antiarrhythmics
      • Class I (fast sodium channel blockers) 
      • Class II (beta-blockers)
      • Class III (potassium channel blockers)
      • Class IV (calcium channel blockers)
      • Class V (other)
    • Anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin
  • Ablation
  • Cardioversion
  • Implantable devices

What Are Symptoms of Heart Palpitations?

Most of the time the heart palpitations are not a cause for concern and they only cause minor symptoms such as feeling:

  • As if you skipped a heartbeat
  • The heart is beating faster than normal
  • As if the heart is pounding in your chest
  • Fluttering in the chest or neck

However, there are some types of irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) that can be signs of medical conditions: 

  • Tachycardia
    • Heart rate is too fast (in adults, more than 100 beats per minute)
  • Bradycardia
    • Heart rate is too slow (in adults, less than 60 beats per minute)
  • Atrial fibrillation (AFib)
    • Upper heart chambers contract irregularly
  • Ventricular fibrillation (VFib)
    • Disorganized contraction of the lower chambers of the heart
  • Conduction disorders
    • Heart does not beat normally
  • Premature contraction (PACs and PVCs)
    • Early heartbeat

See a doctor right away if you have palpitations and:

What Causes Heart Palpitations?

Heart palpitations may be caused by:

Other types of irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) may be caused by:

  • Heart attack
  • Heart changes with age
  • Inherited heart disease
  • Congenital abnormality of the heart’s electrical system

How Are Heart Palpitations Diagnosed?

Tests to diagnose the cause of heart palpitations include: 

  • Electrocardiogram (“ECG”) 
  • Echocardiogram (“echo”)
  • Electrophysiology test (EP study)
  • Stress test (treadmill test)
  • Esophageal electrophysiologic procedure
  • Tilt table test
  • Diagnostic monitors
    • Holter monitor
    • Transtelephonic monitor
  • Cardiac catheterization (“cardiac cath”) 
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan of the heart
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the heart 
  • Blood tests: brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) or N-terminal pro-BNP (NT-proBNP) or cardiac enzymes such as Troponin 
Reviewed on 4/22/2022
Image Source: iStock Images