Heart Palpitations: How Do You Know When They’re Serious?

Heart palpitations are sensations of rapid, fluttering, or pounding heartbeats. While occasional palpitations might be benign, consistent irregularities may signal underlying concerns.

Such palpitations may indicate atrial fibrillation among other concerning health issues. Learn more about atrial fibrillation on this page: https://cadenceheart.sg/condition/atrial-fibrillation/.

Heart palpitations often feel like a fluttering in the chest or a racing heart which may be accompanied by dizziness or shortness of breath. In today’s piece, we will explain what heart palpitations can be confused for and how to know when your heart palpitations are serious. Keep reading!

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What Can Be Mistaken For Heart Palpitations?

Just like many other complications, heart palpitations are often confused with conditions which themselves are not heart palpitations. The problem with this is that you may ignore heart palpitations yet you’re dealing with something more serious. So, it is natural to wonder, what can be mistaken for heart palpitations?

One of the most common cardiovascular issues that can be mistaken for heart palpitations is atrial fibrillation (AFib). AFib is characterized by rapid and irregular contractions of the heart’s upper chambers which also poses serious risks like stroke and heart failure if untreated.

As explained, the problem with AFib is that the symptoms often overlap with other common conditions which sometimes make it harder to tell if you’re dealing with AFib or something else. If you’re experiencing rapid, fluttering, or pounding heartbeats and not sure if you’re dealing with heart palpitations or AFib, here are a few tips to tell the difference:

1) Duration and Associated Symptoms

AFib: Palpitations due to AFib generally tend to last for extended durations longer than those caused by anxiety. If you get palpitations that are accompanied by symptoms like nausea and sweating, you may be dealing with AFib.

Palpitations: Transient and anxiety-induced palpitations may pass swiftly. They may not come with additional symptoms.

2) Use Rhythmic Analysis

AFib: The heartbeat in AFib is wildly erratic. Mostly, they show irregular and chaotic patterns.

Palpitations: While palpitations elevate the heart rate, it follows a steadier rhythm and gradually return to normal.

3) Consider the Context

AFib: Context matters if you’re not sure if you’re dealing with AFib or something else. If you’re getting palpitations in tense or anxious situations, it’s likely a response to heightened emotions.

Palpitations: Stress-induced palpitations are often a result of the brain releasing hormones. This is what may cause the temporary acceleration in heart rate.

4) Age and Health Factors

AFib: People over 65, particularly those with pre-existing heart or thyroid conditions, face a higher likelihood of AFib.

Palpitations: Occasional palpitations may occur in individuals of various ages. These incidences may be triggered by stress or external factors.

5) Monitoring Heartbeat Patterns

AFib: Consistent irregularities in the heart’s upper chambers distinguish AFib. You may want to make use of monitoring devices to detect these erratic patterns.

Palpitations: A regular pattern during palpitations, without sustained irregularities, aligns more with stress-induced or benign causes.

Is it OK to live with heart palpitations?

Since heart palpitations are essentially the incidences when your heartbeat becomes rapid and noticeable, they’re not always a cause for concern. So many people ask: is it OK to live with heart palpitations? Below is a summary of the incidences when getting heart palpitations is normal, incidences when you should be worried about heart palpitations and most importantly, when to see a cardiologist for heart palpitations in Singapore:

When it is OK to live with heart palpitations:

  1. If you get palpitations due to physical activity: It is common to get heart palpitations during exercise are common. In these situations, the heart tends to pump more blood to meet the body’s demand, something which may cause a noticeable heartbeat.
  2. If your palpitations are due to stress and anxiety: Emotional stress or anxiety can trigger palpitations. This is your body’s “fight or flight” response to the situations which may temporarily increase your heart rate.
  3. If you get palpitations after consuming caffeine and nicotine: Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and consuming them may lead to palpitations. You may want to cut down on these to alleviate the symptoms.
  4. Dehydration: Insufficient fluid intake can affect blood volume which may also lead to palpitations. Staying hydrated is essential for heart health.
  5. If you’re pregnant: Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause palpitations. While common, it’s essential to inform your healthcare provider.

When to worry about heart palpitations:

  1. If you’re getting persistent palpitations: Normal heart palpitations shouldn’t last for longer durations or be repetitive. So, if you’re getting palpitations which persist, occur frequently, or suddenly intensify, it may be time to inform your cardiologist about your palpitations in Singapore.
  2. Chest pain or discomfort: Palpitations accompanied by chest pain, discomfort, or shortness of breath may indicate a serious problem.
  3. Fainting spells: If palpitations lead to fainting or near-fainting, seek immediate medical attention. It could be a sign of an arrhythmia.
  4. Associated medical conditions: You should not ignore palpitations if you’re living with existing heart conditions like coronary artery disease or heart valve disorders. The palpitations that come with such conditions may be indicative of severe underlying issues.
  5. Severe symptoms: If palpitations are accompanied by severe symptoms like dizziness, lightheadedness, or profuse sweating, consult a healthcare professional promptly.
  6. Chronic conditions: Palpitations in individuals with diabetes or thyroid disorders should be evaluated. Prompt evaluation is crucial as they can exacerbate heart issues.
  7. Age and Family History: Older individuals or those with a family history of heart disease should be vigilant. Consult a doctor if palpitations become recurrent.

When to see a doctor for heart palpitations:

  1. If you’ve never experienced palpitations before and suddenly start having them, seek medical advice.
  2. If you have existing heart conditions or chronic illnesses, promptly discuss palpitations with your healthcare provider.
  3. If palpitations are accompanied by alarming symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting, seek emergency medical attention.
  4. If palpitations interfere with your daily life, impacting your ability to work or engage in regular activities, consult a healthcare professional.
  5. If palpitations become recurrent, it’s essential to identify the cause and determine an appropriate course of action.

Closing Thoughts

Living with heart palpitations may be normal in certain situations. But it is important that you’re able to recognize the red flags. As a general rule of thumb, always prioritize your heart health, and if in doubt, seek professional medical advice.

Are you worried about your symptoms and want to see a heart doctor that can help you assess your heart palpitation in Singapore? The professionals at the Cadence Heart Center are ever willing to lend a helping hand. To schedule an appointment, call or visit us at:

Cadence Heart Centre (Dr Devinder Singh) | Heart Screening, Heart Check Up
3 Mount Elizabeth #14-13
Mt Elizabeth Medical Centre, Singapore 228510
(65) 8318 9884
(65) 6369 8789
[email protected]

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