7 Important Things To Know About Premature Atrial Contractions

If you’ve ever felt like your heart skipped a beat or suddenly beat strongly, it could likely be a premature atrial contraction. But what does this mean, and should it concern you?
We’ve put together a list of seven things you should know about premature atrial contractions in this article.

Premature Atrial Contractions: 7 Things To Know

1. They are extra heartbeats that begin in the heart’s upper chambers.

Your heart is a muscular organ with four distinct chambers: two upper atria and two lower ventricles. The atria receive either oxygenated or deoxygenated blood and pump it into the lower chambers. These lower ventricles then contract and pump the blood further into where it’s needed. The chambers have valves that prevent blood from flowing in the wrong direction.
To control this complex system of muscles and valves, your heart has its own electrical system. But because it’s an organic system, it can sometimes trigger a beat too early or cause an extra beat. If this happens in the atria, it’s a premature atrial contraction.

2. It might feel like your heart skipped a beat or took an extra beat.

Along with the strange, fluttering feeling in your chest, you may also feel other symptoms associated with your heart and lungs. You might feel lightheaded, short of breath, or tired. Some people even feel dizzy and may need to sit down. But what causes these premature atrial contractions? Well, while doctors don’t always know the exact cause, certain things increase the chances of them happening.

3. Some things can make them more likely.

Using stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine can make premature atrial contractions more frequent. Other risk factors include:

  • Heart disease or high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Alcohol
  • Cold medicine
  • Asthma medicine
  • Pregnancy
  • Dehydration
  • Stress, anxiety, or fatigue

4. They don’t usually require treatment.

Fortunately, in most cases, there’s nothing to be worried about. Premature atrial contractions don’t have a definite cause and pose no risk to your health – they’re just a natural occurrence. But sometimes, the feeling might be too frequent for your liking or occur at inconvenient moments. And while there might not be anything wrong with your heart, you might want to decrease the likelihood of these contractions.

5. You can decrease the frequency of these contractions.

Generally, a healthier heart comes with a healthier lifestyle. If you drink a lot of coffee or energy drinks containing caffeine throughout the day, limiting and moderating your intake can help. Quitting smoking or vaping and reducing your nicotine usage also make a difference.
Reducing stress is key since stress and anxiety can cause your heart to beat irregularly. You should also pay attention to and treat other medical conditions that can be related, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

6. However, some conditions may cause premature atrial contractions.

Sometimes, people with premature atrial contractions can turn out to have heart conditions. These can include cardiomyopathy, which is when your heart muscle is too weak to function properly. Some people may also have coronary heart disease caused by fatty plaque deposits in the arteries.

7. If your contractions bother you or happen frequently, see a cardiologist.

A cardiologist will be able to examine the rhythm of your heart and check with you about your medical history, medication use, and lifestyle habits. They may order tests to monitor your heart more closely in different conditions, such as when you’re at rest and during exercise. If it turns out that you have a heart problem, an expert cardiologist will be able to plan and administer treatment for you.
At the Northwest Cardiovascular Clinic in Houston, TX, we listen to all of our patients and keep you confident and comfortable through our high-quality care practices. We’re equipped to perform a comprehensive suite of tests to diagnose any potential heart problems. These include electrocardiography, heart rhythm monitoring, and blood tests. If you have any questions or concerns, you can reach us at (281) 807-5253.
We look forward to hearing from you.

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