Although a racing heart following exercise can be unsettling and frightening, it is usually a harmless condition. However, because it is such a disturbing symptom, it is important to understand how to treat it–and to know when to seek medical attention for it.
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A racing heart can vary in severity–from an unpleasant awareness of your heartbeat to a frightening pounding that is actually visible beneath the surface of your skin. A racing heart can be felt in your neck, throat and chest and can linger even after you discontinue exercise. It can also be accompanied by a fluttering sensation, skipped heartbeats or the sensation that your heart is pumping blood harder than it usually does.
Cool down following your exercise routine to gradually return your heart rate back to its normal rhythm. For example, if jogging, slow your pace to a walk for the last five minutes of your routine. Try a relaxation technique such as a progressive muscle relaxation where you tense all of your muscles and then gradually relax each muscle from your toes to your head. You can also practice tai chi or yoga after your exercise routine.
Some underlying factors and conditions such as smoking, chronic stress, poor exercise habits, high blood pressure, an unhealthy diet and high cholesterol levels can make you more susceptible to exercise-related heart palpitations. If your doctor rules out an underlying health condition, it is ok to ignore a racing heart after exercise unless you notice a change or sudden increase in intensity.
Call a doctor if you've never experienced heart palpitations before or have heart disease risk factors such as diabetes or high blood pressure. In addition, seek immediate medical attention if a racing heart is accompanied by discomfort or pain in the chest, dizziness, fainting and shortness of breath. These could be signs of more serious health complications such as cardiac arrest, heart failure or a stroke.