Heart Palpitations: Is It AFib or a Panic Attack

In recent times, the condition of struggling with heart palpitations is not just limited to any particular age group. Lifestyle changes have made almost everyone soft targets of heart ailments. The condition of heart palpitations is when feel like your heart is racing, skipping a beat, or beating irregularly. While heart palpitations may be caused by several factors, the most common causes are atrial fibrillation (AFib) and panic attacks.

AFib and Panic Attacks

Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) and Panic attacks are two distinct medical conditions that may lead to a significant impact on your health and lifestyle. AFib is when your heart beats with an abnormal rhythm. This occurs when the upper chambers of the heart beat too fast and irregularly. The symptoms of AFib include -

  • Heart palpitations

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest pain

AFib can be a serious condition that may increase the risk of stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications.

On the other hand, panic attacks are sudden episodes of intense fear that can cause physical symptoms, such as heart palpitations, sweating, and shortness of breath. There may be no apparent reason for panic attacks to occur. The attacks are sudden and can be severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Difference between AFib and Panic Attacks

AFib and panic attacks, both come with similar symptoms. However, certain factors can help to identify the underlying cause of heart palpitations -

  • For instance, AFib is more likely to occur in older adults with underlying heart conditions, while panic attacks are more common in younger individuals with a history of anxiety or panic disorders.

  • Moreover, the symptoms of AFib tend to be more consistent and persistent, while panic attack symptoms come on suddenly and subside within minutes.

  • People with AFib may also experience other symptoms, such as dizziness, fatigue, and chest discomfort, whereas panic attacks tend to cause more psychological symptoms, such as fear and anxiety.

How to avoid afib or panic attacks?

There are steps that individuals can practice to prevent the occurrence of AFib and Panic attacks –

Steps to prevent AFib are as follows –

  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is foremost.

  • It is important to understand how blood pressure needs to be managed through healthy diet and regular practices. High blood pressure, smoking, obesity, and excessive alcohol consumption are known risk factors for AFib.

  • Individuals should also consider quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption or avoiding it altogether.

  • Sleeping for stipulated time periods is important too.

  • A low-salt diet is recommended for patients with heart ailments as salt can increase blood pressure and fluid retention.

  • People with irregular heartbeats should avoid consumption of caffeine or limit its intake as it can disturb the heart rhythm.

Steps to prevent panic attacks are as follows –

  • Panic attacks can be triggered by emotional, psychological, or physical factors such as stress, anxiety, depression, or any event that leads to trauma.

  • Regular exercise, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation may help victims of panic attacks.

  • Individuals should also avoid or reduce the intake of stimulants such as caffeine, sugar, and even certain medications.

  • And, a balanced diet is a must here as well. Good food as in proper meals and a good sleep should work wonders too.

  • Social and emotional wellbeing is also important to help individuals manage anxiety and emotional distress that can cause Panic attacks.


Heart palpitations can be caused by AFib or panic attacks. Although both conditions can cause similar symptoms, certain factors can help to identify the underlying cause. Seeking prompt medical attention is crucial to diagnose and manage heart-related issues and prevent potential complications.

If you experience heart palpitations, it is essential to seek medical attention to determine the underlying cause. You may have to go for a physical examination of the underlying health conditions, take your medical history, and order tests, such as electrocardiogram (ECG) and blood tests, to diagnose AFib or other heart conditions.

Someswar Pal
Someswar Pal

Studying Mtech/ AI- ML

Updated on: 24-Apr-2023


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