10 Tips to Stop Heart Palpitations

Medically Reviewed By Uzochukwu Ibe, MD, MPH
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Heart palpitations are irregular heartbeats. They can be alarming and cause anxiety, but several methods may stop the palpitations or decrease their occurrence. Palpitations may feel like fluttering, flip-flopping, or pounding in the chest or neck. Although unsettling, heart palpitations are common and typically not serious. 

This article discusses ways to decrease how often you experience palpitations and how to stop them when they occur. It also talks about when to seek medical attention.

1. Try relaxation techniques

a woman is having heart palpitations and is staring at the sky
Rushay Booysen/EyeEm/Getty Images

Try lying down and resting when your palpitations start. Lying down also keeps you safe because people sometimes feel lightheaded when they have heart palpitations. 

Raise your feet above your head, if possible, and try taking slow deep breaths while thinking about slowing your heart rate. Visualize a calm environment and focus on relaxing your body.

Learn more about how to relax your muscles progressively

2. Try vagal maneuvers

Try performing a vagal maneuver to stop your palpitations. These techniques activate your vagus nerve, which acts on your heart’s pacemaker cells and slows down the electrical impulses. 

Vagal maneuvers may include:

  • splashing cold water on your face while holding your breath
  • bearing down as if having a bowel movement
  • stimulating your gag reflex

3. Drink water and electrolytes

Not drinking enough water makes your blood thicker and puts more stress on your heart. If you feel dehydrated or your urine is dark, start rehydrating yourself. 

Electrolytes are essential for your body’s electrical conduction, including the heart. When your electrolytes are off, you may experience heart palpitations. Sodium, potassium, and magnesium are especially important for heart health. 

To ensure you get enough electrolytes, eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. If you feel as if you’re low on electrolytes, try eating one of these electrolyte-packed foods:

  • banana
  • avocado
  • spinach
  • Potato

Learn more about how to stay hydrated

4. Avoid stimulants

Stimulants speed up your body’s system. They are common triggers for heart palpitations. One of the most common stimulants is caffeine

Other stimulants include:

  • nicotine or cannabis
  • heavy alcohol use
  • some cough and cold medications
  • appetite suppressants
  • several mental health medications
  • illegal drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, or other amphetamines

5. Try hawthorn berry extract

Hawthorn is a flowering plant that grows around the world. Historical uses for hawthorn include treating heart, digestive, and kidney problems. 

More recently, research has focused on how hawthorn affects heart failure. A 2004 study noted that trial participants who used the hawthorn berry extract had fewer heart palpitations than those who did not.

6. Perform the Valsalva maneuver

The Valsalva maneuver increases the pressure inside your chest and abdomen, slowing your heart rate.

To perform the Valsalva maneuver, pretend to blow up a balloon or bear down for a bowel movement. You can sit or lie down while you do this technique.

Some people like to tightly wrap their lips around their thumb and blow against it as hard as they can without allowing air to escape. You can try this a few times, taking regular breaths in between.  

Learn how to perform the Valsalva maneuver.

7. Eat a balanced diet

Include heart-healthy foods such as:

  • wholegrains
  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • dairy
  • proteins
  • healthy fats and oils

Avoid foods high in saturated fats and fatty meats. Cut back on sodium and look for foods that contain less salt or are low in sodium. 

Some people notice increased heart palpitations when they have low blood sugar. Others notice heart palpitations when they consume high amounts of sugar. It is important to pay attention to your body.

Learn more about 9 heart-healthy foods

8. Reduce stress

During stress, your adrenal glands release adrenaline, stimulating your fight-or-flight response. When your body is frequently under stress, your heart may respond with palpitations

Research shows that anxiety is often a trigger for palpitations. While it is not practical to take away all stress, there are ways to reduce or manage it:

  • planning ahead
  • prioritizing tasks
  • preparing for stressful situations
  • taking time to relax
  • exercising and following a balanced diet
  • Talking with friends, family, or a professional about your stress

Read more about how to manage stress

9. Exercise some more

Regular exercise helps promote a healthy heart. The American Heart Association suggests weekly 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise. This includes activities such as:

  • brisk walking
  • bicycling
  • dancing
  • jogging
  • gardening
  • playing tennis

If you notice that certain activities result in more heart palpitations, try doing other exercises instead, such as yoga or Pilates. 

10. Avoid your triggers

Heart palpitations do not always require treatment, and people may find they have different triggers.

Pay attention to your body and what things may trigger palpitations. You might find it helpful to record your daily dietary intake, exercise, and stress level.

When to seek help

Let your medical professional know if you are having palpitations. They may not be able to determine the cause, but they can rule out serious heart conditions

Seek emergency medical care if you experience:

Diagnosing heart palpitations

To diagnose what is going on, your medical professional will ask questions about your symptoms, medical history, and current medications. To assess your heart, they may run a series of tests. 

An EKG shows the electrical activity in your heart. A doctor may request a monitor to record your heart during usual daily activities.

Other tests may include:

Outlook for heart palpitations

Most of the time, heart palpitations are manageable by decreasing foods, substances, or stresses that trigger the palpitations. 

Sometimes people with palpitations need medication or undergo an ablation procedure. 

Summary

Heart palpitations are fast, irregular heartbeats. They may feel like skipped beats or as if your heart is flip-flopping or fluttering. They can be anxiety-inducing but, most of the time, are harmless. 

If you experience heart palpitations, eat a balanced diet and avoid foods and substances that may be triggering. Decreasing stress, staying hydrated, and regular exercise can improve heart health.

If you are experiencing palpitations for several minutes, try performing a vagal or Valsalva maneuver to stop the palpitations. 

Seek medical attention if you have concerns about your palpitations. Your medical professional can perform tests to check for serious cardiac problems. Most palpitations do not require treatment, but some may need medications or a heart procedure. 

 

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Medical Reviewer: Uzochukwu Ibe, MD, MPH
Last Review Date: 2022 Nov 18
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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