Fish Oil & Heart Palpitations

According to an June 2005 article in USA Today, a study lead by Merritt Raitt of the Portland VA Medical Center showed that fish oil supplements may trigger arrhythmia in patients who were already prone to irregular heart beat. This is a surprise, even to those who lead the study, since fish oil has so many beneficial effects on health.


Dr. Raitt says that other drugs shown to prevent rhythm disturbances also can cause them in the sickest people who have recurrent arrhythmia. He speculates that omega-3 fish oil may be a similar double-edged sword. According to an article published by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, studies indicate that fish oil supplements are beneficial in lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends that people with documented coronary heart disease regularly eat a variety of oily fish, including salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and trout. Your physician may recommend fish oil supplements, as well.

Types of Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitation is an uncomfortable awareness of your heart beat. It may feel as though the your heart is pounding or racing. You may feel skipped, extra or irregular beats, or your pulse may seem very slow. A slow pulse is called bradycardia and an unusually fast heart rhythm is called tachycardia. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart beat that occurs when an upper chamber of the heart, an atrium, doesn't beat in sync with a lower chamber, or ventricle. Atrial fibrillation is occurs in an estimated 2 million Americans and is the most common type of arrhythmia, according to the American Stroke Association. Ventricular tachycardia is less common and is a more dangerous arrhythmia.


Although heart palpitations are not usually of serious concern, it is important to determine the cause of the problem. Your physician can diagnose the problem by means of an electrocardiogram or ECG. However, to make a correct diagnosis, the ECG must be performed while the palpitations are happening. If the palpitations are intermittent, your physician may want you to wear a monitor for 24 hours. Atrial fibrillation is a serious risk factor for strokes, and ventricular tachycardia can cause sudden heart failure, so it is important to treat these conditions medically.

Treatment for Ordinary Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations can also be caused by over-exercise, anxiety, fever, caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, diet pills, overactive thyroid, anemia, hyperventilation and some medications. Some also find that fish oil supplements seem to cause heart palpitations. You can help the problem by reducing caffeine intake, reducing stress and not smoking. Breathing exercises, yoga and tai chi exercises can also help, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Fish Oil Supplements

Fish oil helps to reduce cholesterol and prevent heart disease. If you find that fish oil supplements seem to trigger heart palpitations, don't take them. Instead, eat oily fish at least twice a week. You can also get omega-3 fatty acids from walnuts, olives, olive oil and walnut oil, as well as flax seed oil.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker before leaving the house.
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