Palpitations: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

The heart

Heart palpitations are the uncomfortable sensation that your heart is beating fast or irregularly. You might feel pounding or fluttering in your chest. It might feel like your heart is skipping a beat.

Although palpitations may be caused by a heart problem, they also occur because of stress, fatigue, or use of alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine. Many medicines, including diet pills, antihistamines, decongestants, and some herbal products, can cause heart palpitations. Nearly everyone has palpitations from time to time.

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may need to do more tests to try to find the cause of your palpitations.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and excess alcohol.
  • Do not take illegal drugs, such as methamphetamines and cocaine.
  • Do not take weight loss or diet medicines unless you talk with your doctor first.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Do not overeat.
  • If you have palpitations again, take deep breaths and try to relax. This may slow a racing heart.
  • If you start to feel light-headed, lie down to avoid injuries that might result if you pass out and fall down.
  • Keep a record of your palpitations and bring it to your next doctor's appointment. Write down:
    • The date and time.
    • Your pulse. (If your heart is beating fast, it may be hard to count your pulse.)
    • What you were doing when the palpitations started.
    • How long the palpitations lasted.
    • Any other symptoms.
  • If an activity causes palpitations, slow down or stop. Talk to your doctor before you do that activity again.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
  • You have signs of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, paralysis, or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • New problems with walking or balance.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Drooling or slurred speech.
    • New problems speaking or understanding simple statements, or feeling confused.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have heart palpitations and:
    • Are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
    • Have new or increased shortness of breath.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You continue to have heart palpitations.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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