Palpitations, or an awareness of the heartbeat, are extremely common. Most people who complain of palpitations describe them either as "skips" in the heartbeat (that is, a pause, often followed by a particularly strong beat,) or as periods of fast and somethimes irregular heartbeats.

Most people with palpitations have some type of cardiac arrhythmia. Virtually any arrhythmia can cause palpitations, but the most common causes of palpitations are premature atrial complexes (PACs), premature ventricular complexes (PVCs), episodes of atrial fibrillation, and episodes of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).

Unfortunately, on occasion palpitations can be a manifestation of a more dangerous heart arrhythmia, such as ventricular tachycardia which may cause cardiac arrest and sudden death.

Caffeine, alcohol and stimulant drugs all increase the risks of palpitations and heart rhythm problems. Most palpitations are benign but it is important to be assessed by a heart specialist to determine the cause and start any treatment necessary.