Have you ever reminisced about the initial time you fell in love? You might have exclaimed, “My heart skipped a beat.” Or maybe you’ve encountered a nerve-racking moment that left you feeling like your heart stopped. Most commonly, these were expressions of excitement, not actual heart rhythm issues.
But if you have detected a sudden shift in your heart’s rhythm, you may have experienced a premature atrial contraction (PAC). However, if your heart quickly returned to its normal pace, you likely didn’t pay much attention to the unusual heartbeat. However, do these odd heart sensations signify a more significant issue?
What are premature atrial contractions?
Like a house’s electrical system, the heart has a pathway of electrical signals. The sinus (SA) node, located at the top of the heart, initiates the electrical impulses, causing the heart’s upper chambers or atria to contract. The electrical signal then travels to the atrioventricular (AV) node, which signals the ventricles to contract, sending blood to the lungs and the rest of the body.
Unfortunately, the heart’s electrical system can go wrong. While all heart cells can produce an electrical signal, they generally leave this task to the SA and AV nodes. Occasionally, other cells send out signals that disrupt the normal electrical pathway.
Premature heartbeats can result from signals originating in the heart’s myocardium in the upper chambers, causing the heart to compensate by delaying its rhythm briefly before returning to normal. As a result, the succeeding beat is usually more forceful, resulting in a feeling of a skipped beat or thump. This is known as a premature atrial contraction (PAC).
What causes premature atrial contractions?
PACs can arise due to a variety of reasons. Sadly, doctors often label them “idiopathic,” indicating they cannot pinpoint the cause. And doctors usually brush off the symptoms as not serious and “not a big deal”. Well, it is often a big deal to the patient.
Most cases of PACs can be identified if the right doctor knows where to look. The following can lead to PACs:
- Mold or heavy metal toxicity
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Poor sleep including sleep apnea
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
- Dental infections
- Prescription drugs
- Use of tobacco or illicit drugs
- Alcohol consumption
- Exposure to electromagnetic radiation
- Environmental pollution
Does stress cause premature atrial contractions?
Stress is an often ignored cause of premature atrial contractions (PACs). However, psychological stress, including PACs, is a primary trigger for heart rhythm problems.
When you’re stressed, your body’s “fight or flight” response is activated, which causes the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones create physical changes in the body, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate. This makes it more likely to experience PACs.
Multiple studies confirm cardiac arrhythmias, such as PACs, worsen during stress. Moreover, research finds that other negative emotions, such as anger and depression, also may trigger heart palpitations.
Highly anxious people often wonder if anxiety can cause premature atrial contractions (PACs). It is worth noting that anxiety is indeed a significant cause of PACs. Regrettably, anxiety and heart palpitations are frequently experienced together, and this can create a self-perpetuating cycle of symptoms.
The human heart is designed to beat in a regular rhythm. Therefore, while occasional PACs may not be concerning, recurring heart palpitations may indicate a problem. And whatever is causing the PACs can lead to more serious conditions.
Your MD may not be interested in helping you find the cause and the cure of your symptoms. At Natural Heart Doctor, we do care and have been successful with 1000s of patients.
If you are worried about the rhythm of your heart, we suggest consulting with one of our expert healthcare providers. Through collaboration, you can explore your symptoms, possible diagnostic tests, and treatment options to help you achieve your 100 year heart.