Q&A: Calming PVCs
I'm 40 years old and recently started having a lot of palpitations, which my doctor diagnosed as 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, PVCs (premature ventricular contractions) are usually harmless.
Most often PVCs are isolated—meaning they happen one at a time. However, they're often upsetting to people who have them and are one of the most common reasons for seeing a cardiologist.
PVCs 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.
PVCs 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 PVCs
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.
Step 1: Eliminate Caffeine
For people with PVCs, 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 Specific Nutrients
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:
- L-carnitine (1,000–2,000 mg)
- CoQ10 (100–150 mg)
- D-ribose (7–10 g)
- Magnesium (400–800 mg)
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
Benign problems with the heart, such as PVCs, often have an emotional component. By acknowledging and dealing with issues that hurt and trouble you, you may find that your PVCs are significantly reduced or disappear altogether. Honestly evaluate the sources of stress and pain in your life.
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Meet Dr. Sinatra
Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist and nutritionist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. His integrative approach to heart health focuses on reducing inflammation in the body and maximizing the heart's ability to produce and use energy. More About Dr. Sinatra
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