What’s Happening When Your Heart Beats Too Hard or Too Fast

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

If there’s a type of heart palpitation that tends to cause more worry than others, it’s when the heart starts beating unusually hard or fast, seemingly without reason.

One minute you’re going about your business, and the next your heart is racing and you can’t control it!

Fortunately, most episodes of racing heartbeat are not dangerous. To accurately assess your risk, it’s important to understand what causes your heart to beat extra hard and fast, and what complicating factors could make it more than just a passing event.

Why Your Heart Might Beat Too Hard or Too Fast

A sudden change in heart rate can occur under virtually any circumstance—whether you’re working outside or sitting at a desk, or laughing or crying—which is one reason an unexpected pounding or racing heart is such an attention-grabber. While the episodes may seem to have nothing in common, it’s been my experience that most can be traced to two causes:

Hidden emotions

Whether we’re consciously aware of it or not, our heart rate reflects our emotions. A heart beating too fast or too hard can be a messenger telling us that we need to acknowledge and own stressful or negative emotions lurking just below the surface.

For example, say you’re out with friends to celebrate a big promotion or retirement. It’s a happy occasion; still, your heart starts racing. Why? Perhaps beneath your excitement, you’re also fearful about what the future holds and how you’ll cope with it. Or maybe you’ve been struggling with one of your children. You brush aside the stress and tell yourself, “It’s their life.” But then out of nowhere, while you’re doing something completely unrelated, your heart starts pounding.

Despite what we tell ourselves about our lives, the heart never lies. Our brains rationalize our guilt, shame, fear, and anger, but the heart always knows our truth—and sometimes it will beat in unusual ways to bring our attention to those issues. So if you’ve been experiencing a racing or pounding heart, first ask yourself if you’re harboring untended emotions. An honest answer to that question often will begin to resolve the heart rate issue.

Environmental hazards, like EMF exposure

When spontaneous surges in the heart rate aren’t related to emotions, I look for environmental causes. Exposure to chemicals, poor air quality, specific foods and food additives, and EMF are all potential culprits.

EMF, especially, is high on my list. Though the studies are still producing mixed results on the degree to which EMF can affect heart rate, specifically, I hear anecdotal evidence in support of the fact that it does, just about everywhere I go. On my last trip to the west coast, I met a young mother who told me that her son frequently suffers from a rapid heartbeat while at school. Since the boy is fine while he’s at home, they think the problem is due to the fact that he’s exposed to wi-fi all day long.

Wi-fi isn’t the only source of trouble, of course. Cell phones and cell phone signaling towers, microwave ovens, baby monitors, and cordless phones all emit radiation that can potentially cause the heart to beat too hard or too fast. In fact, one study found that using a cordless phone caused a disturbance in heart rate variability in 40 percent of study participants, as well as a link between cordless phone use and both elevated heart rate and an increase in the number of irregular heartbeats.

Should You Worry About a Heartbeat That’s Too Hard or Too Fast?

If a pounding or racing heart happens to you repeatedly, by all means see a doctor and get it checked out. Don’t assume that because you’re in good health, nothing is wrong. Recurrent episodes could be the first sign of emerging cardiovascular concerns.

For others, your risk when your heart beats too hard or too fast depends on two things: your heart rate variability (HRV) and the structure and function of your heart.

In people who have good heart rate variability—that is, whose hearts beat with a wide range of speed and intensity—are at far lower risk than people whose HRV is more restricted. When a heart with poor HRV is suddenly pushed to its limit, more serious events can occur.

You also have more risk if your heart is compromised in some way, as a physical abnormality has the potential to disrupt the electrical signals that govern the heartbeat. Heart attack survivors, especially, are at risk because their hearts have areas of scar tissue. Not only must the normal electrical signals travel around these areas, but the scar itself can sometimes be a source of ectopic beats. Sudden increases in heart rate have the ability to scramble the electrical signals and excite the source of ectopic beats, leading to potentially fatal arrhythmia.

Minimize Your Risk From a Racing Heart

For everyone, the best way to minimize risk is to improve your heart rate variability. To start, work on managing your stress, and find ways to bring balance into your life, such as yoga, meditation, or prayer. I also highly recommend grounding, since it helps calm the autonomic nervous system. Finally, stay away from environmental pollutants—and limit time on your cell phone or other wireless device!

6 Natural Ways to Stop PVCs (Premature Ventricular Contractions)

Resources:

© 2016 HeartMD Institute. All rights reserved.

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37 Comments

  1. Jan hubbs

    on August 26, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Excellent advice

  2. Tom. House

    on August 28, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    Great information. I learn something every time I read your postings . Tom

  3. Ted Platt

    on September 14, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    Thank you for this information! I have gained a great deal of help from these subjects and reading Dr. Sinatra’ s book!

    Thank You, ted Platt
    Wallingford, CT

  4. HeartMD Editor

    on September 15, 2016 at 9:49 am

    You’re so very welcome!

  5. Nancy Shelly

    on September 22, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    I just recently lost my husband suddenly to an apparent heart attack – he was planning to have his aortic heart valve replaced – one minute he was with me and then he went outside to trim some branches from a neighbor’s hedge and fell over and died. It was such a shock and I am experiencing sudden, pounding of my heart, especially upon waking. I take 2.5/6.25 mg. Ziac and after taking it, I notice some relief. I suppose I should consider this a stress involved heart pounding? I have great faith and pray constantly, but still notice my heart beating when prior to this event, I never was aware of my heart. I guess the grieving process comes in many different ways.

  6. CINDY

    on September 22, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    My mom gets a racing heart periodically. It happens to her while she’s at home for no reason at all. Sometimes it lasts for hours and she doesn’t know how to slow it down. She sits and drinks green hot tea and takes extra coQ10. Sometimes the coq10 helps and sometimes taking a nap helps too. But is there anything else she can do or take? Would d-ribose help?

  7. Nicole Moojen - Huntington Beach, CA

    on September 22, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    This is ALL very TRUE!! I’m a Miracle case to still be alive after falling to “Sudden Death Syndrome in Athletes” 4 years ago. I have a Rare Heart Disease called ARVD that causes me to suffer from Fatal Arrhythmias, Tachycardia more specifically. My heart is ‘electrically’ distraught & gets ‘stuck’ racing at 330+ beats per minute due to the disease’s scar tissue that rapidly forms from any actively induced stress upon the heart. The more physical exertion my heart undergoes, sadly causes this disease to further progress, grow/develop, & worsen faster. It can happen at any time, from literal super minor physical exertion, to being completely relaxed in the middle of sleeping. I’m extremely familiar & aware of ALL of this info in this awesome excerpt. It is SOOO nice to see, hear, & read something of any ‘slight’ acknowledgment of ‘some’ of the external environmental factors & subconscious internal notions that ever so easily affect the health & rhythms of our hearts!! Especially regardless of how physically healthy and/or fit any one person may actually be. It is such an amazing bit of RELIEF to finally see a minor bit of ‘Supporting evidence of the TRUTH’ of these qualities being very REAL, especially to those incredible fighters who struggle to deal these notions & unfortunate heart conditions on a daily basis. No pun intended, but my heart goes out to you all! Keep up the great fight & enjoy EVERY moment to its absolute Fullest! Each new second is truly an awesome Blessing! 🙂 It’s definitely not expected for many people to fully understand the rare complexity of these conditions, but so very MANY honestly discredit, refuse, & disbelieve any of these simple factors to be true, as well as how greatly it CAN & DOES affect some people’s hearts. From such strong repetitiveness, this notion can be quite frustrating – especially when your own caregivers, physicians, & Drs don’t believe these things affect you or sadly even worse, choose not to :/ So THANK YOU SO MUCH DR SINATRA for this INVALUABLE & pleasantly simply stated, significant information!! 🙂 Please continue to share more! This intense rare condition is hard to continually fight to survive through on a day to day basis. But I am ever so Thankful & Grateful to still yet be alive :j God Bless You!

  8. HeartMD Editor

    on September 22, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you – you’re an inspiration!

  9. Laura J Starr

    on September 22, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you for this well organized heart health information. I am a holistic health RN & share Dr Sinatra’s site to motivate nurses toward better Integrative self-care.
    We in the Kentuckiana Holistic Health Nurses Association endeavor to promote Integrative Health. Resources like this helps to encourage stress reduction to encourage better work/ life balance.

  10. HeartMD Editor

    on September 22, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Hi Cindy, Check out https://heartmdinstitute.com/heart-health/types-of-arrhythmias/ – there’s a lot of info there about what to avoid or do (and taking ribose is suggested). Also, does she have cordless phones or wifi at home? We definitely suggest removing them from the home. Your mom should get checked out by a doctor – if she hasn’t already – to make sure she doesn’t have an underlying cardiovascular condition or serious arrhythmia. Best of luck to you both.

  11. HeartMD Editor

    on September 22, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    Our hearts go out to you, Nancy; we hope you find comfort and peace during this devastating time of loss. God bless.

  12. Anne Marie

    on September 26, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    My heart pounds very hard when I’m at home, but I’m okay anywhere else. My lungs and throat are raw also. Could ammonia cause these conditions? My landlord has lots of cats downstairs and he’s not very good at cleaning up after them. Sometimes I can smell them throughout the house, but most of the time the smell is in the front hall and my laundry room.
    Can low Vitamin D cause a pounding heart? I would suspect this, but I’m fine everywhere except at home.
    Thank you for all the information you provide, Dr. Sinatra. I can’t afford a natural doctor, and medical doctors, as you know go only for the symptoms. I have to find the information that will make me well myself. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you and others like you who educate the poor as well as the rich.

  13. HeartMD Editor

    on September 29, 2016 at 10:12 am

    Hi Anne, Thank you and you’re very welcome! Inhaling ammonia can cause respiratory issues; ammonia is a respiratory irritant. Mold also is known to cause respiratory issues. Is there WiFi and/or a smart meter on the premises? Some people are electro-sensitive and experience heartbeat changes and other symptoms when exposed to strong wireless signals; cordless phones are also known culprits. If the cat situation is bothering you, maybe your pounding heart may reflect frustration & anger about not being able to change it? I hope this helps and that you get relief soon.

  14. kevin ngeywo

    on April 24, 2017 at 8:36 am

    At least i have information concerning heartbeat and i have found it useful.

  15. Debbie

    on May 6, 2017 at 3:21 am

    I am experiencing hard pounding heartbeats. I just ate a baked potato with sour cream and salt. While eating My heart rate went from 64 to 91 per minute.
    I also have been in a very stressful troubling marriage for 21/2 years. Not a day goes by with out some level of relationship stress. I have begun to not involve my emotions and not respond just hoping some miracle happens. It’s gone from bad to worse and now my heart is rapidly pounding. I have had two anxiety bouts and the medic said this stress needs to stop.
    I’m not sure if this is good related but I can’t seem to control it.
    I don’t ever eat potatoes so I am wondering if all the sugar in the potato is the culprit or if It’s the on going relational stress.

  16. Claire

    on June 15, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    My heart rate was consistent at 100 beats per minute for several yrs. My MD put me on atenolol which helped slow it down. occasionally it might race for 5 seconds, but not too often.

  17. Roy H.

    on June 15, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    Had trouble with high heart beats ( after by-pass) was on beta-pace. After a lot of walking and doing extra stuff I have got rid beta-pace. My heart beats normal now. But now after all my walking and mowing the lawn I get sores in my nose (every time) and some blacking around the eyes. What causes this? Thank you…

  18. Cecilia

    on June 15, 2017 at 10:56 pm

    My doctor told me 2 months ago that my heart skipped 4 beats. I had a holter monitor checking and the results did not show a big problem. Sometimes I get exhausted walking up the stairs at the train station. I am always fatigue and I know that there is something going on with my t4. I am taking coq10 with resverotrol and omega 3. Should I be worried, and should I be taking additional vitamins? In addition I take vitamin C, D, E and magnesium.

  19. Shafiqkhan

    on June 16, 2017 at 10:47 am

    Thank you very much for giving such invaluable and educative information. Pl keep it up.

  20. HeartMD Editor

    on June 22, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    Hi Cecilia,

    It’s good that your holter moniter did not show any major problems and that you are working with your doctor to get to the bottom of the skipped beats.

    If you have fatigue, I’d recommend that you get Dr. Sinatra’s book: “The Sinatra Solution“. It details metabolic cardiology and how his four top supplements, called his “awesome foursome” can help with fatigue and restoring energy to starved heart cells.

    In addition, you can check out this article on fatigue for some additional tips that can help.

  21. Elizabeth Gignac

    on July 14, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    GREAT ADVICE AND IN SITE..?..
    THANK YOU
    ELIZABETH G.
    EDMONTON AB
    CANADA

  22. stephen o.

    on July 20, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    please i was at work this morning while my girlfriend phone was with me. i opened her whatsapp chats and read through them. i saw a couple of unfaithful conversations she had with some guys. even though i was okay psychologically and mentally but i realised my heart was beating very fast and hard. please what may have caused this?

  23. Cindy Little Wolf

    on September 3, 2017 at 1:15 am

    Thanks for info kind of put a scare into me going to make my son 34 years old a doctor’s appointment on Monday. This is nothing to mess around with he does have a heart murmur now he gets the rapid heartbeat and the pounding and he says he can’t comment down it sounds like it could be stress-related and he does work around chemicals. Thanks for all the interesting comments. Cory’s mom

  24. Landon

    on September 7, 2017 at 5:47 am

    My father has random bouts daily of his heart racing, he can have it happen 2-3 times a day to not at all – , I’ve read that holding your breath can fix of slow it down so he has taken this on board and it helps, but only sometimes , it’s very random and it takes his breath away to the point of him requiring to sit down – he is 73 – and it’s been happening for the last 2-3 yrs – he’s quite a placid guy and not much phases him so I’m not sure if it’s outside influences like wifi etc how ever while typing this I have remembered he does cough frantically whenever he has a phone to his mouth ? Could be a thing ! I’ll take a look at his daily electrical influences to see if that’s a trigger , anyone else have this ? He has seen a cardiac specialist and they wanted to open him up and operate !!!! Not sure what the basis was !

  25. Pretend

    on September 21, 2017 at 10:17 am

    Hi Dr, thanks for the information.
    I have been through a lot since I was a child with no Parents guide, it so hard to grow especially without mother not even supports of family members, now I’m a grown women I can take care of myself and my kids but the problem is now I always have stress when I think about my bad past and the more I’m thinking about it my heart beats so first and hard sometimes it doesn’t but when it starts it beats faster and hard but i noticed it when I’m stressed about something it beat in different way,
    How can I Avoid this kind of beating?it scares me a lot as if I’m going to die can’t imagine my kids growing without a mother like me.

  26. Jesse Zheng(13 years old)

    on September 26, 2017 at 8:05 am

    Every time when I saw the friend that I haven’t talk for a long time(we never say hi to each other) my heart keep pumping hard until he pass me.
    This won’t stop at all.

  27. Alyssa

    on December 13, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    So My heart and chest is starting to hurt even more than it already did. My heart keeps randomly beating hard and fast and then it feels like it completely stops then slowly beats again and when I lay down it is very hard to breathe I don’t know what is the cause of this I used to have anxiety but this feels so much worse.

  28. Judy P. Laborte

    on May 23, 2018 at 11:21 am

    I have a friend his heart beats too fast..I could hear it and even see it on his chest.. He also told that there was a time that his heart stop beating just a second and beat again too fast…is it normal?

  29. Judith P.

    on July 26, 2018 at 3:08 am

    Hello ,thank you for this infomation,
    Now me my heart beats too fast as if someboby scared med and get safocated and inside me i feel like crying but i can not cry and for me what i do is just to sleep and when i wake up i feel dizzy and have a headache and all weak.so what do i do cause i can not even cry even if i feel it in me.
    Thank you for your support.

  30. Deanna

    on September 29, 2018 at 2:30 am

    I was woke up when my heart was racing and I even hear my heart beating loud. my heart beats too fast as if someboby scared . and when i wake up i feel dizzy and have a headache and all weak. I didn’t know what to do I was really scared this was the second time this month it happened. And I don’t have heart problems.

  31. D.N

    on December 10, 2018 at 10:46 pm

    Ok, I’m a 12yr old and I am having shortness of breath particularly often now and have this need to cough out of nowhere even if I’m not sick. I’ve been seeing things like asthma, and hypoxemia or hypoxia which is freaking me out to the core honestly I don’t know what to do about it a few years back I started having my heart beating rapidly fast as I stopped running and my throat would feel cold which I would get a drink of water for some reason after that? I’m thinking this might be serious and I should see a doctor and Believe me I will be telling my problems to my doctor if I am certain this is a problem for me. Please help me!

  32. Chiquita

    on March 5, 2019 at 7:05 am

    Yes, My heart beat hard and at times feel like its racing. My heart beat is between 75 and 89 “while sleeping” which, I thought was a little unusual while resting. My heart usually beat at night between 54 to 60. I suffer with Gerd not sure if that have anything to do with my heart. My doctor put me on Metoprolol not sure if its working. I’m trying to understand the sudden change and nobody can tell me what going on “Frustrating”…

  33. Marilyn

    on August 12, 2019 at 11:28 pm

    I am hypothyroid. I took Synthroid for a while and still experienced all the hypothyroid symptoms. My doctor switched me to natural thyroid medication. I read that T3 that is in natural dessicated thyroid can cause a fast heart beat. It has made my heart beat much faster. I feel 100% better taking the natural thyroid medication, but worry about the fast heart beat. Should I be worried? My doctor hasn’t been worried, but I wonder about it.

  34. Nancy Rondeau

    on August 13, 2019 at 7:59 am

    I have had open heart surgery last June. They replaced the aortic and mitral valves . I was born with a heart murmur and at 69 my heart started to fail due to the mitral valve’s failure. We think this caused an enlargement of the left side of my heart and Afib. I went to my family doctor for extreme tiredness and not feeling well. I was about to take a trip to two different states for family functions. Instead I landed in the hospital with heart failure. My lungs were filling with blood and fluid. I had two chest tubes inserted and after two weeks I seemed to dramatically improve. I had great medical care in the Cardiac Intensive Care. I came home and for three weeks tried to gain strength for the big surgery.
    On June 21 st of last year the surgery was performed. I had the two valves replaced and an ablation of the enlarged part of my heart. I came home and recuperated. I take Eliquist and Beta Pace. I have felt better than I have in years. I also take with my cardiologist’s permission Omgea Q plus 100 with reseveratrol . Fantastic product which I had been taking for years and I believe had kept me going for a long time. I would like to get off the Eliquist but they say I need for the Afib. It has not been a problem since the surgery.
    Also the Beta Pace and will talk with my doctor when I see him in Dec. Thank you for the great products, my mother was a big fan of yours and took your products as well. She lived to be 98 1/2 yrs. your products and a good Polish diet cabbage, oatmeal and lots of berries. I try hard to follow her example.

  35. Vee

    on August 26, 2019 at 9:25 pm

    Nancy Rondeau
    So glad you made it.
    Love
    Vera

  36. Masud D

    on October 12, 2019 at 8:46 am

    Hi Dr. Sinatra,
    I am impressed to read about you on this web link. I like to request you to kindly help me out on my Atrial Flutter condition persisting since Sept 2018. Brief history and medical background is as follows:-
    i) I am a healthy person at 80 years of age. As per CHAD VASCO, I have zero score OR 2 if my age is taken-80. I suffer from no Co-morbities. All my organs are healthy and normal and so are my 11 tests except that I am anemec- The RBC count is 3.39 mil/ml vs 4.5 mil /ml and the Hemoglobin has not improved-stays put at 10.2 g/dl vs 13. to improve this I am taking Iron supplement.
    ii) I go for a walk 3to5 miles /day. Can drive and do some house hold chores but get exhusated.
    iii) After seeing the holter EKG, The Electrocardiologist at( Islamabad-Pakistan) advised for flutter ablation, abroad, as there is no facility in Pakistan . I cannot afford this costly procedure abroad. My heart is “normal” at my age although slighly enlarged.
    iv) To control the flutter “Dilitiazem”-Calcium blocker(Beta Blockers have not suited me)- has been prescribed which I am taking 45mg every 6 hours-total 180mg. This has controlled my heart rate at 52bpm but only for 20 hours-not 24 hours. In between I get flutter for a few hours.
    v) To help my heart “muscle” I am taking supplements: Omeqa-3 1000mg/day+ taurine 2000 mg/day+ L’Arginine 500mg/ day(higher dosage caused gout)+ Magnesium Stearate 20mg / twice / day after meals+ 6 drops of Hawthorne berry extract twice a day+ Vitamin C-1000MG+ Vitamin B Complex with Zinc 22mg/day.
    vi) I take controlled diet- No or very little salt, Olive oil cooked food, no red meat or black tea. Little bread and plenty of fruits & steamed vegetables, no sugar of any kind except Honey. I do not drink or smoke.
    I request you to kindly advise me on the following:-
    A) Can Atrial Flutter be controlled and reversed with diet + supplements etc. If so what other supplements must I begin taking to help reverse and cure my flutter. OR
    B) Ablation is the only answere to my ailment.
    C) Can I consult you when I visit CA . If so kindly email your contacts, consultation fee etc as I have no insurance.
    I shall be very very grateful for your considered advice.
    Masud D

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