Sometimes you may feel your heart fluttering, pounding, skipping, or beating differently than what you’re used to. This is known as having heart palpitations. You may notice palpitations fairly easily because they draw your attention to your heartbeat.
Headaches are also fairly obvious, as the discomfort or pain they cause may interfere with your ability to do regular tasks.
Heart palpitations and headaches don’t always occur together and may not be a serious concern. But they could signal a serious health condition, especially if you have other symptoms.
Heart palpitations and headaches accompanied by passing out, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, chest pain, or confusion may be emergencies that require immediate medical treatment.
There are several reasons you may experience heart palpitations alongside a headache. Some of the conditions or factors below may be the cause of these symptoms occurring at the same time.
Certain lifestyle factors may cause palpitations and a headache together, including:
- caffeine or other stimulants
- tobacco use and exposure to smoke
- some medications
Your body needs a certain amount of fluid to function properly. If you’re dehydrated, you may also find yourself experiencing these symptoms:
- severe thirst
- palpitations or fast heartbeat
- urinating less often
- darker-colored urine
Dehydration may occur from:
- taking certain medications
- having an illness
- sweating frequently from exercise or heat
- having an undiagnosed health condition, such as diabetes, that can cause frequent urination
An arrhythmia causes a changing heartbeat that can be regular or irregular. Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) and atrial fibrillation are examples of arrhythmias that cause heart palpitations and can also lead to headaches.
Other types of arrhythmias may also be the cause of your symptoms. There are several types of supraventricular tachycardia that may affect your heart rate and bring on other symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, or feeling faint.
PVCs can be linked to caffeine, tobacco, menstrual cycles, exercise, or stimulants, like energy drinks. They can also happen for no obvious reason (which is described as “idiopathic’).
PVCs occur when there are additional early heartbeats in the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart. You may feel like your heart is fluttering or skipping beats, or has a forceful heartbeat.
Atrial fibrillation causes a rapid, irregular heartbeat. This is known as an arrhythmia. Your heart can beat irregularly, and it may sometimes beat more than 100 times per minute in the upper chambers.
Conditions like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, sleep apnea, and high blood pressure can cause atrial fibrillation.
Sometimes your heart may race because of supraventricular tachycardia. This condition occurs when your heart rate increases without working out, being sick, or feeling stressed.
There are several types of supraventricular tachycardia, including:
- atrioventricular nodal re-entrant tachycardia (AVRNT)
- atrioventricular reciprocating tachycardia (AVRT)
- atrial tachycardia
You may have other symptoms with this condition, such as pressure or tightness in your chest, shortness of breath, and sweating.
Migraine and headaches
One recent study concluded that participants who had migraine with an aura are more likely than those without headaches and those with migraine without an aura to develop atrial fibrillation.
A one-sided, very painful headache that appears out of nowhere and lasts for a long stretch of time may be a cluster headache.
It’s possible to get these headaches daily for weeks or months at a time. You may find yourself moving or rocking back and forth during the headache, which could contribute to an increased heart rate.
Other symptoms occur on the affected side of your head and may include a stuffy nose, redness in the eye, and tearing.
Another type of headache is a tension headache. Your head may feel like it’s being squeezed during a tension headache. These headaches are common and may be caused by stress.
High blood pressure and headaches
High blood pressure can also cause headaches and sometimes forceful heartbeats.
If you have a headache as a result of high blood pressure, you should seek medical attention immediately because this could become dangerous. Your blood pressure may need to be lowered rapidly with intravenous medications.
Heart palpitations and headaches may be a sign of anemia. This occurs when you don’t have enough red blood cells in your body.
Anemia may happen because you don’t have enough iron in your diet or you have another medical condition that causes problems with production, increased destruction, or loss of red blood cells.
Women may experience anemia from menstruation or pregnancy. Anemia can make you feel tired and weak. You may look pale and have cold hands and feet. You may also experience chest pain, feel dizzy, and have shortness of breath.
Anemia can have serious consequences, so talk to a doctor right away if you suspect it may be the cause of your symptoms.
An overactive thyroid can cause changes to your heartbeat as well as other symptoms, such as weight loss, increased bowel movements, sweating, and fatigue.
A panic attack can interfere with your day-to-day life. Fear takes over your body during an attack.
Heart palpitations and a headache may be symptoms. Others include trouble breathing, feeling dizzy, and experiencing tingling in your fingers and toes.
Panic attacks can last up to 10 minutes and be very intense.
Pheochromocytoma is a rare condition that occurs in the adrenal glands, which are located above the kidneys. A benign tumor forms in this gland and releases hormones that cause symptoms, including headaches and heart palpitations.
You may notice other symptoms if you have the condition, including high blood pressure, tremors, and shortness of breath.
Stress, exercise, surgery, certain foods with tyramine, and some medications such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) can trigger symptoms.
You may experience heart palpitations and a headache after eating for a few reasons.
Both symptoms can be triggered by certain foods, though they may not always be the same foods. It’s possible that a meal may contain foods that trigger both symptoms.
A rich meal and spicy food can bring on heart palpitations after eating.
You may get a headache from any number of foods. About 20 percent of people who get headaches say that food is a trigger. Common culprits include dairy or excessive amounts of salt.
Alcohol or caffeine consumption can also lead to both heart palpitations and a headache.
There are several reasons you may experience heart palpitations, a headache, and fatigue at the same time. These include anemia, hyperthyroidism, dehydration, and anxiety.
The treatment for your symptoms may vary based on the cause of your heart palpitations and headache.
You can quit or limit smoking or drinking alcohol or caffeine. Quitting may be difficult, but a doctor can work with you to come up with a plan that’s right for you.
You may want to discuss your feelings with a friend, family member, or doctor if you experience stress.
A doctor may prescribe medications, suggest some activities, or even recommend a surgery or procedure to treat an arrhythmia. They may also advise you to modify your lifestyle and avoid smoking and drinking alcohol and caffeine.
An arrhythmia that occurs with dizziness can be very serious and require immediate medical treatment at a hospital. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you have both of these symptoms.
Treating supraventricular tachycardia varies from person to person. You may only need to perform a few actions during an episode, such as applying a cold towel to your face or breathing out from your stomach without exhaling from your mouth and nose.
Your doctor may also prescribe medications to slow your heart rate or recommend surgery, such as electrical cardioversion.
Migraine can be treated with stress management, medications, and biofeedback. Discuss the possibility of an arrhythmia with a doctor if you have migraine and heart palpitations.
Treatments include taking radioactive iodine to shrink your thyroid or medications to slow down your thyroid.
A doctor may also prescribe medications like beta-blockers to manage symptoms related to the condition.
Your symptoms from this condition will likely go away if you undergo surgery to remove the tumor in your adrenal gland.
See a mental health professional for therapy to get help for panic attacks or panic disorder. Anti-anxiety medications may also help your symptoms.
Treating anemia depends on the cause. You may need to take iron supplements, get a blood transfusion, or take medications to increase your iron levels.
Having heart palpitations and a headache together may not be a sign of anything serious, but they may also signal a serious health problem.
Don’t “wait out” your symptoms if you also experience dizziness, lose consciousness, or have chest pains or shortness of breath. These may be signs of a medical emergency.
Headaches or heart palpitations that persist or recur should prompt you to seek medical treatment.
A doctor will try to narrow down the possible causes headaches and heart palpitations by discussing your symptoms, your family history, and your health history. They will then conduct a physical exam.
They may order tests following your first appointment. If your doctor suspects a condition related to your heart, you may need to get an electrocardiogram (EKG), stress test, echocardiogram, arrhythmia monitor, or other test.
If a doctor suspects anemia or hyperthyroidism, they may order a blood test.
Heart palpitations and headaches are symptoms that can sometimes occur together for many reasons. Talk to a doctor if symptoms persist or recur.