Can Anemia Cause Heart Palpitation?

Heart palpitations are common worldwide. One study found that approximately 16% of people who visit their primary care provider report symptoms of heart palpitations.¹

Heart palpitation symptoms include feelings of a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart. Various factors, including stress, exercise, and medications, can trigger these feelings. In rare cases, heart palpitations can stem from a medical condition. 

Although they can cause a lot of worry, heart palpitations are often harmless. They are common, non-specific, and can be a diagnosis or a symptom.

But can anemia cause heart palpitations? Let’s take a closer look.

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What is anemia?

Anemia is a condition with insufficient healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen throughout the body. There are different types of anemia with unique causes. Anemia can be temporary or long-term, and symptoms range from mild to severe. 

Anemia can cause detrimental effects on the heart as less oxygen is available, so your heart beats faster to circulate oxygenated blood more quickly. This can cause a racing or pounding feeling. You may also breathe faster to get more oxygen. 

Symptoms of anemia

The most common anemia symptom is fatigue. Others include:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Dizziness

  • Cold hands and feet

  • Chest pains

  • Pale skin

  • Headache

What causes anemia? 

There are many different causes of anemia, including: 

Blood loss 

This can happen due to heavy menstrual bleeding, surgery, trauma, or gastrointestinal bleeding. 

Poor red blood cell production

Certain conditions, such as cancer or kidney disease, can interfere with the body's ability to make healthy red blood cells. Certain medications can also have this effect. 

Destruction of red blood cells 

Conditions like hemolytic anemia occur when your body destroys red blood cells faster than it can replace them. 

Anemia can also occur during pregnancy due to the increased demand for iron and other nutrients. 

Types of anemia 

There are many types of anemia with different causes and treatments: 

Iron-deficiency anemia

A lack of iron in the body causes this type of anemia. It’s the most common type of anemia, and doctors treat it with dietary changes or supplements. 

Vitamin deficiency anemias

These types of anemias are due to a lack of vitamins B9 (folate) or B12 (cobalamin). You can treat vitamin deficiency anemias with dietary changes or supplements. 

Anemias caused by chronic disease

Some chronic diseases, such as cancer, kidney disease, or rheumatoid arthritis, can cause anemia. Treatment for this type of anemia focuses on treating the underlying chronic disease. 

Aplastic anemia

This anemia occurs when the bone marrow doesn’t produce enough red blood cells. Doctors treat aplastic anemia with medication or blood transfusions. 

Sickle cell disease

This inherited blood disorder occurs when red blood cells are misshapen and break down quickly. Doctors treat sickle cell disease with medication and pain relief measures. 


This inherited blood disorder occurs when there are problems with hemoglobin production. Doctors treat thalassemia with medication, blood transfusions, and iron chelation therapy.

How do doctors diagnose anemia? 

If you are experiencing symptoms of anemia, see a doctor so they can perform a physical exam and order tests to confirm the diagnosis. 

The most common test used to diagnose anemia is a complete blood count (CBC). This test measures the amount of hemoglobin in your blood and will also give your doctor information about the size, shape, and number of your red blood cells. 

Based on these results, your doctor can determine which type of anemia you have and devise a treatment plan. 

Understanding heart palpitations

Heart palpitations feel like your heart is pounding, fluttering, racing, or skipping a beat. They can last for a few seconds or a few minutes and may happen occasionally or frequently. 

What causes heart palpitations? 

While many things can cause heart palpitations, common causes include: 

  • Anxiety 

  • Caffeine 

  • Exercise 

  • Fever 

  • Heavy alcohol use 

  • Smoking 

  • Stress 

  • Certain medications 

In some cases, an underlying medical condition may cause heart palpitations. This can include arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat) and hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid),

Are heart palpitations dangerous? 

Sometimes, heart palpitations are temporary. If you notice frequent palpitations, see your doctor for testing. If your heart is racing for a long time without correction, this can cause heart muscle problems in some cases. 

You should seek immediate medical attention if you have heart palpitations with other symptoms, such as: 

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fainting

  • Dizziness 

If you experience frequent or severe heart palpitations, see a doctor to determine the cause and receive treatment if necessary. 

The lowdown

Heart palpitations are relatively common and may be harmless. However, in some cases, they can signify a more serious condition like severe anemia. 

Sometimes, heart palpitations go away without needing treatment. However, seek medical attention immediately if you experience frequent or severe heart palpitations and other concerning symptoms. 

Living with occasional heart palpitations is usually nothing to worry about. But it's always best to err on the side of caution and consult with a medical professional if you have any concerns.

Frequently asked questions

When should I worry about heart palpitations?

Most of the time, heart palpitations aren't a cause of worry and usually go away on their own. However, speak to your doctor if you have an underlying medical condition, suspect your current medication causes your heart palpitations, or have other symptoms you’re concerned about.

How does anemia affect the heart?

Anemia causes cardiac stress as the heart pumps harder and faster to circulate adequate amounts of oxygen. Over time, this can weaken the heart.

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