I'm 40 years old and recently started having a lot of palpitations, which my doctor diagnosed as premature ventricular contractions or PVCs. An EKG, Holter monitor, and stress echocardiogram showed that my heart is completely normal except for the extra beats. The doctor assured me they're benign but then recommended I take a beta-blocker, so I'm confused about how serious the problem really is. What can you tell me?
For starters, you can trust your doctor when he says you're in no real danger. If tests have shown that your heart is functioning normally and has no structural problems, such as a thickened ventricle wall, and you have no other signs of heart disease, premature ventricular contractions are usually harmless.
Most premature ventricular contractions are isolated—meaning they happen one at a time. However, PVCs are often upsetting to people who have them and are one of the most common reasons for seeing a cardiologist.
Premature ventricular contractions occur when one of the ventricles contracts early and out of rhythm with the rest of the heart. Sensing this, the heart pauses, its electrical signals reset, and then it resumes beating. This can feel like you're having "skipped beats," but you're actually not. The prematurity of the heartbeat and "compensatory pause" after the electrical reset just makes it feel that way.
Premature ventricular contractions don't always have a clear cause, but they can be related to hormone or electrolyte imbalances, as well as anxiety, stress, poor diet, alcohol or drug use, and other conditions that raise the level of adrenaline in your body. That's probably why your doctor recommended the beta-blocker. Those drugs blunt the effect of adrenaline on the heart and minimize the sensations PVCs cause. Some people find them helpful, but others are frustrated by their side effects.
WATCH: When You Should Worry About Your Premature Ventricular Contractions
Because your heart is otherwise healthy, I would suggest trying a three-step natural solution for reducing PVCs that combines dietary changes, nutritional supplementation, and mind-body work.
Natural Solution for Reducing Premature Ventricular Contractions
Step 1: Eliminate caffeine if you have PVCs
For people with premature ventricular contractions, consuming caffeine (including chocolate) is like throwing gasoline on a fire. You should also cut back on sugar and alcohol.
Step 2: Up your intake of nutrients that support heart health
Reducing PVCs requires that you take nutritional supplements that support overall heart health and the removal of cellular waste. When too much waste accumulates in your heart cells, it can damage cell membranes, disrupt electrical signals, and make you more vulnerable to irregular rhythms. I particularly like daily doses of:
A high-quality fish oil (2–3 g) is also helpful because it has a positive effect on heart rate variability.
Step 3: Explore your emotions to reduce your premature ventricular contractions
Beginning problems with the heart, such as PVCs, often have an emotional component. By acknowledging and dealing with issues that hurt you, you may find that your premature ventricular contractions are significantly reduced or disappear altogether. Honestly evaluate the sources of stress and pain in your life.