Picture this: You're heading into the local coffee shop, not paying attention to where you're going, and you accidentally run into the new barista the one you've been secretly crushing on for weeks. To your surprise, he's blushing, too. Your heart flutters.

Or how about this: You open your email, not expecting anything but spam, and see a message about the dream job you applied for months ago and assumed you hadn't gotten. The company wants you to join their team after all. Your heart skips a beat.

But what if the reason your heart does flip-flops isn't because you've just met the love of your life or been offered your dream job? There might actually be a medical reason behind these palpitations.

Here's what you should know about 6 potential reasons your heart skips a beat.

1. Intense Emotions

Intense emotions like fear can trigger palpitations, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). This is why people might have palpitations during panic attacks.

In fact, people who have anxiety or are dealing with lots of stress have a higher risk of experiencing palpitations.

2. Vigorous Exercise

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but you can have palpitations when you're doing an intense workout. What's not as well known is that even though your heart might feel like it's beating too fast, it's probably working normally, the NHLBI explains.

3. Non Heart-Related Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions that, at first glance, have nothing to do with the heart might also be the culprit behind palpitations, including:

  • Overactive thyroid
  • Low blood sugar
  • Anemia
  • Fever
  • Dehydration

Medications that may cause palpitations include: Inhaled asthma meds, underactive thyroid meds, arrhythmia meds, and stimulants.

4. Hormones

Changes in hormone levels caused by pregnancy, menstruation, or perimenopause can also make your heart skip a beat, says the NHLBI. Fortunately, these palpitations tend to disappear over time.

5. Arrhythmias

Of course, there are times when palpitations are a result of heart issues. For instance, they can be a sign that a person has an irregular heartbeat called an arrhythmia.

This is not common, explains the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Less than half of all people who experience heart palpitations do so because of an arrhythmia.

However, you might be at a higher risk for arrhythmia-related palpitations if you have:

  • A heart attack or are at risk for having a heart attack
  • Coronary heart disease (CHD) or are at risk for CHD
  • Heart valve disease
  • Heart muscle disease
  • Heart failure

6. Problems In The Heart's Upper Or Lower Chambers

Another potential heart issue can occur when the heart's upper chambers, or atria, can contract out of sync with the rest of the heart. This can cause that “heart-skips-a-beat” feeling, explains Harvard Health Publications. It's usually nothing dangerous.

On the other hand, atrial fibrillation happens when your heart's upper chambers contract rapidly and irregularly. Similar issues can happen in the lower chambers, also called ventricles. As Harvard Health Publications explains, people who experience either condition should be seen and treated by a physician.

While a single out-of-sync contraction usually isn't anything to worry about, repeated problems can turn fatal, Harvard Health Publications says.

When To See A Doctor For Palpitations

While most palpitations aren't anything to worry about, when they occur with other symptoms, it's time to seek medical attention. According to the NHLBI, these symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain, pressure, or tightness in the chest, jaw, or arms
  • Unusual sweating

If your palpitations become more noticeable, let your doctor know even if she has determined that they were harmless in the past, adds the NHLBI.

While many of the reasons behind your heart skipping a beat might be harmless, knowing the causes and any risk factors you might have can help you and your doctor determine the best course of action. A heart health specialist at West Valley Medical Center can help you find the source of your heart palpitations.

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