Extrasystoles and the Heart: Symptoms, Causes and Remedies

Extrasystoles and the Heart: Symptoms, Causes and Remedies. I will start off by saying that the condition characterized by extrasystoles (premature heart beats) is not dangerous and is highly unlikely to pose any serious health problems.

In simple words, an extrasystole is a premature or faster heart beat occurring in many absolutely healthy individuals. It is estimated that 1 in 2 people will experience the condition at one point in their lifetime. Extrasystoles may affect perfectly healthy children, adolescent, adults and older people without posing any health threat whatsoever.

Extrasystoles

I first experienced extrasystoles about 15 years ago and, as you can see, I am still alive and happy today. I started noticing some irregularities in my heart beat when I was alone at home, laying in my bed. I also noticed that when I was in the company of other people, having a pleasant time, they disappeared like magic.

When you are laying in bed, just before falling asleep, and you feel like your heart is either skipping a beat or going a heartbeat too fast, it is natural to feel scared and think that maybe something is wrong. At first I was scared too and sought medical advice to calm my fears down. But the extrasystoles did not stop even after getting reassurance from my doctor that my heart was perfectly healthy. Up next, I want to share with you my personal experience in dealing with extrasystoles.

What I learnt causes my extrasystoles: I noticed that hearing sudden, loud noises or being woken up unexpectedly from my sleep not only made me anxious, frightened or stressed, but also triggered my extrasystoles. When I calm down, my heartbeat gets back to normal. A scientific explanation for this is that the body, believing it is in imminent danger, reacts instinctively by increasing anxiety and stress levels, to prepare for an attack. Stress, anxiety, fear are emotions that may trigger extrasystoles by the negative impact they have on our body. But as soon as we calm down, extrasystoles stop too.

heart

The cause for my extrasystoles is almost always stress and anxiety. For example, my favorite thing to do is go for a bike ride in the countryside where I live. Breathing fresh air and feeling the warm sun rays on my skin fully relaxes me. And although I sometimes rode my bike for miles, I never experienced extrasystoles. But when I started worrying about having to get up in the middle of the night to work, or stressing about how to pay my bills, this conditions started bothering me again. Since I had went to my doctor for a thorough checkup, including an EKG (electrocardiogram), and found out I was perfectly healthy, I knew there couldn’t be something physically wrong with me. Almost 95% of extrasystole cases occur as a result of stress and anxiety and are not caused by a physical heart problem.

Another cause for extrasystoles is smoking. According to statistics, smoking is the number 1 cause of cardiovascular disease, especially in men. Smoking also causes extrasystoles so giving up cigarettes will certainly improve the quality of your life. Hard-core coffee drinkers are also at risk of experiencing extrasystoles (along with serious vitamin deficiencies). An excessive intake of sugar, honey and other similar sweeteners can cause heart rhythm abnormalities as well. For some people, eating too much dark chocolate or cocoa or drinking excessive amounts of tea also causes extrasystoles. Dark chocolate, black coffee and green and black tea are powerful stimulants and some people are simply much too sensitive to them.

Everyday tea and coffee contain stimulants such as theine and caffeine which excite the cardiovascular system and cause extrasystoles so drastically reducing your intake of coffee and tea will help you immensely. You might find this funny, but sometimes, when I feel the urge to pee and still hold it in a little bit more, I get extrasystoles. Moreover, not getting enough sleep might put your body into overdrive and cause extrasystoles, or even low blood pressure. So make sure you are not sleep-deprived.

Because I went through the same thing some of you are going through now, I wholeheartedly recommend that you go see your doctor and ask for an ECG or EKG test (an electrocardiogram). What happens during an EKG or ECG? A family doctor or cardiologist will place some small metal discs called electrodes on your chest, arms and legs (usually wrists and ankles). You just have to lie still on a bed for several minutes (5-10) while the machine to which the electrodes are attached measures your heart’s electrical activity. An EKG will simply confirm that your extrasystoles, and possibly other symptoms, are no reason for concern.

How I take care of my extrasystoles: Because extrasystoles are not an indication of any heart problem, I am against taking any medication. After all, I have a healthy heart. But I do have some tips to make extrasystoles more manageable so the condition doesn’t interfere with day-to-day life. In the evening, before going to sleep, I like to drink a cup of herbal tea. My favorites are chamomile, hawthorn, lemon balm and passionflower because they relax me and the hotness of the tea makes me sleepy.

Keeping stress levels low is also very important for managing extrasystoles so make sure you do something you enjoy every now and then. Some people like cleaning the house when they are alone, others would enjoy a good comedy movie or listening to their favorite music. I like riding my bike in solitary places, where I am surrounded by trees, maybe lie down by the bed of a river and watch ducks or seagulls. Always keep in mind that life is beautiful and that you deserve to enjoy it and you will have no more troubles with extrasystoles.




22 thoughts on “Extrasystoles and the Heart: Symptoms, Causes and Remedies

  1. Omg! This is the first time i ever comment on any of these posts i read! But you? I had to! Thanks a mil !!!! Ive been having these palpitations for over 2 years now and i felt like i was dying! U made me feel like m not alone! And its perfectly normal. Haha. Agreed on everything u said. Thx

    • You’re welcome. I’m very happy you found the anwers and peace of mind you’ve been looking for, Loucyneh! And yes, you are not alone! Extrasystoles are almost always harmless and I’m sure that if you watch your stimulant foods and beverages intake (dark chocolate, black coffee, soda, green and black tea especially) and just take some time to relax and shake off some stress you will notice great improvements in your condition. Also, congratulations on staying informed. I wish you lots of health!

  2. You’ve no idea how much this post has helped me. I endure significant anxiety disorder and lately this ‘heart thing’ has had me pretty freaked out. So, I did some internet researching! As I learned about extrasystoles, including this post, it diminished at least one significant aspect of my anxieties. MANY THANKS.

    • I am really happy to hear the article helped you this much. Stress and anxiety seem to make everything worse. But just by knowing that your anxiety is triggering your extrasystoles you have more control over the situation and this should give you the confidence you need to better manage the situation and the problems that may arise with it. As they say, ‘knowledge is power’ and having knowledge about your condition, its symptoms and causes will empower you to deal with things better. I wish you only the best.

  3. Hi i’m doing a presentation tomorrow and i would have to know the effects and symptoms of extrasystole that would be great for me right now

  4. Hi there, I’ve had the odd extra systoles all my life, but they’ve become much worse in the past couple of years (I’m 59). I tried cutting down tea but it made no difference. I did a 48-hour EKG last year and the cardiologists said not to worry, but when I get a strong wave of it I don’t feel comfortable. I’ve started to notice that they get really bad about 15 minutes after I eat carbs. I rarely eat sugary foods but just crackers with a savoury topping or a quiche can trigger a bad run. Then they come so thick and fast they scare me – every second or fourth beat for a little while that really make my chest jump, even though I’m not stressed at all. Have you ever heard of this? I’m a vegetarian so cutting out carbs altogether isn’t terribly practical.

    • Hi, Gwen. First of all, I want to tell you that it was smart of you to go to the doctor to rule out other possible heart conditions. Now, considering that these heart-related symptoms appear 15 minutes after you have had a meal (and this is only a presupposition because I am not aware of your medical history), have you considered that you might be suffering from acid reflux? Maybe light foods don’t bother you, but sugary foods, especially those that are processed or baked goods might upset your stomach and cause acid reflux. Or you might have an innate sensitivity to some foods such as garlic, onions, bell peppers, pineapple, etc. Acid reflux symptoms can cause heart problems, such as tachycardia, skipped heart beats or extrasytoles along with symptoms such as dizziness, the feeling of lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting or a burning sensation in your throat, etc. My advice is to talk to your doctor about this. Also, ask him if you might have a hiatal hernia that is causing you this much trouble. You can also try to make a food diary and keep track of what you eat to see which foods in particular bother you (it might be some baked goods or dairy products, if you are a lacto vegetarian).
      At the same time, if you have a high dietary fiber intake, you are at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Your body will most likely show symptoms of iron, B vitamins, potassium and magnesium deficiencies first. For instance, heart problems such as extrasystoles, might be caused by or worsen as a result of potassium, magnesium and B vitamins deficiencies. At the same time, if you have malabsorption problems (or problems absorbing some nutrients from foods), you are at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well.
      As you can see, everything is connected. I strongly recommend you continue to manage your extrasystoles (no coffee, dark teas, dark chocolate, no smoking, less sugar or sweeteners and rest well). In addition to this, talk to your doctor about the possibility of having either acid reflux, hiatal hernia or malabsorption problems and ask him or her to check for potential vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Last but not least, it might be a good idea to go see a dietician and have him or her devise a diet plan suited to your body’s needs. See how this works too.
      Please keep me updated. Lots of health.

  5. Extrasystoles in a structurally abnormal heart mean life threatening. Not my case, made two echocardiograms and I have anormalias in my heart. However as I have extrasystoles are almost followed by sinus tachycardia, and that makes me feel bad because the pressure drops. And I have episodes of hypertension, and when I’m with hypertension I notice that extrasystoles end up being stimulated. I’ve been eating too much sodium lately, I think I’m with excess sodium, as the result of the last examination of sodium that I found that was in 144, and starting from 145 is already considered sodium excess disorder. Excess sodium causes hypertension, which ultimately stimulates the heart to have extrasystoles, beyond the anxiety I have. I have a device to measure pressure detecting extrasystoles and whenever I get nervous I measure it and the warning appears, and when I get nervous measuring actually the warning appears. So it connotes that many of the extrasystoles are caused by anxiety, to feel the pulse I feel extrasystole so nervous I am.

    • Hello, Rodrigo. It is true that extraystoles can be caused and worsened by stress, anxiety and bad dietary habits such as eating too much sodium or drinking too much sodas, coffee or caffeinated drinks. When my extrasystoles started getting worse, I took magnesium, potassium and B vitamin supplements, ate right, slept more and sort of made time for myself and it really worked for me because I started seeing improvements soon. That´s how I got rid of my extrasystoles.

  6. Great post Marius!
    I have the extrasystoles since 2009, in my worst time a holter detected around 300-400 in a day. I got in a hospital where they treated me with Propafenone (150 mg / 3 times a day), I was there for 2 days, and got out…immediately went and visited a cardiologist and he tried to change medication to bisoprolol, but it was causing more strong extrasystoles, so we went back to Propafenone which I had been taking since, in good times I only take 1 pill of 150 mg per day, and worse cases 2 pills per day.
    I am a sports guy so I do a lot of gym, and recently (August 2015) I started running and have been participating in some races, sometimes when I run fast above 165 bpm I feel sporadic extrasystoles which causes me anxiety, I noticed since I started running my anxiety level increased at the point that I have had a couple of panic attacks…..however, I refuse quitting and continue running but at much slower pace.
    Recently, and this is new from the last 2 weeks, my extrasystoles keeps appearing even with the propafenone, not in great scale, probably in the 100-200 per day. And now I do not know what to do, I don’t want to increase my medication…..
    I have had all kind of tests: electrocardiogram, echocardiography, stress test, holters, cardiac enzymes, thyroids, and everything have been normal.
    The cardiologist has also recommended me to start taking alprazolam 0.5 mg per day, but I refuse to start taking anxiolytics pills.

    • Hello, Luis. It´s great you had all those tests to rule out any potential physical abnormality. What I feel also helped me a lot was taking some quality magnesium, potassium and B vitamins supplements. I started seeing good results from the first two weeks, but it took about six months until my extraystoles stopped altogether. I went through ups and downs, and the sudden episodes of extrasystoles after periods of calm were very discouraging for me, making me quite anxious but I knew I just had to have patience and give my body time to respond to the changes I had made. I no longer experience extrasystoles, but I continue to take my vitamins, make time to relax, eat right and avoid stimulant foods and beverages. I am confident it will work out for you too so don´t give up and don´t give into your fears. What I always told myself to get me through was: this is not the end and everything will be alright.

  7. Thanks Marius!
    I can not take my supplementation as magnesium levels are borderline. I have to increase the consumption of water and stop eating cookies. I ate every biscuits and began to have high blood pressure and increased pvc. Industrial food is heavily loaded with preservatives, trans oils, sodium, sugar and this interferes with the extrasystoles situation.

    • Glad I could help, Rodrigo. All processed food is loaded with unhealthy compounds, particularly sodium. If you have been eating a lot of processed foods, chances are your high blood pressure came from them. Potassium is great at regulating blood pressure and counteracting the side effects of too much sodium. It´s hard to stay away from processed foods because they are made to taste really good. What I do is avoid to keep unhealthy foods in the house so I don´t get tempted to eat them. I keep only healthy, unprocessed snacks such as fresh, unsalted walnuts, almonds, fresh yogurt, bananas, dried figs and other dried fruits or aloe vera juices for when I feel like eating something good. What also helps me is to cook meals from scratch. This way I know what I am eating, I choose the ingredients to best suit my body´s needs and manage to stay away from all the bad stuff.

  8. Hi. For me it started a few years ago just like that. When I first had it, I was thinking it was caused by asthma but then I realized that no. When I sleep and I think of something and my heart beats faster I experience extrasystoles, even when I watch a horror movie and my heart starts beating I feel them and I hate that feeling. I always cought as a reflex. I took a blood test once and the doctor told me that my potassium level was very low, since potassium help muscles, cramps etc. I started eating more bananas, tomatoes etc. and taking some supplement of potassium. I see a big improvement. When I don’t eat enough pottassium I see that my extrasystoles are more frequent. For me it really worked. But it´s still a pretty scary feeling. I remember at first when I had them (like all the nights) I was afraid to go to sleep, I was almost crying, didn’t want to go to bed because I knew I would have multiple extrasystoles, but now it’s really better with potassium. And I’m really anxious (like all the time) so I’m sure it doesn’t help :) Thank you for your post Marius. It’s good to know that we are not alone :)

    • Hi, Alexandra. It was very smart of you to go the doctor to measure your potassium levels because you found out about a deficency that appears to contribute to your extrasystoles greatly. It might also help to measure your magnesium levels as well because while potassium regulates heart activity, blood pressure, heart rate, magnesium helps maintain the health of the heart muscle itself and support its ability to contract well. For me, it didn´t help to take only potassium. I took both potassium and magnesium supplements and it took some time until my extrasystoles disappeared completely, but it worked. And once you start seeing improvements, you will slowly start to forget the fear of getting extrasystoles and this might lead to you feeling less anxious about them. It’s a vicious circle, really, because extrasystoles stress and make us anxious and the stress and anxiety contribute to extrasystoles as well. But eating well, sleeping enough, taking time to relax, ensuring we have a sufficient intake of potassium and magnesium and avoiding foods and beverages that aggitate help a lot. Also, remember that stress makes our body burn even more nutrients, potassium and magnesium included, so that´s why some people experience extrasystoles more frequently when they are stressed and anxious. So keep up the good work.

  9. Marius are you Romanian? Thank you for this post, I’ve been suffering from extrasystoles like crazy, they scare me so much sometimes. I went to the cardiologist and wanted to take meds as needed, but he couldnt find anything wrong with my heart. I do like dark chocolate like crazy, and love to drink tea, so I will try to cut back on those. I’m glad I found your post, I will def try chamomile tea, bless you!

    • Hi, Aneta. Yes, I am Romanian. I am very happy this post helped you. You did a wonderful thing by going to the cardiologist’s because now you know that your heart is physically fine and that you don’t need medication for your extrasystoles. Cuting back on dark chocolate and theine rich teas can help because they are both stimulants and may lead to extrasystoles. Switch to milder herbal infusions that relax instead of aggitate you and make time for yourself. As I said before, in my case, magnesium and potassium dietary supplements helped a great deal, but it might still take some time for the extrasystoles to completely disappear. It will get even better once you start getting over the fear of having them. Wishing you lots of health.

  10. Your post is very encouraging. I started feeling palpitations about 2 months ago, they appeared during times of stress once a week or so and then started appearing more often. It feels like you are aware of your heartbeats. When I started taking my pulse I noticed the heart kinda missing heartbeats.

    I went to the cardiologist, did ECG and Echocardiogram/Dopler. He said my heart looks just fine and the ‘missing a bit’ feeling is just extrasystoles, he told me it’s insignificant and I can go home.

    So I insisted I wanted a Holter test from him. He agreed to give me a 24 hours Holter test, which he didn’t think at first was needed.

    Guess what? The holter came back showing 6,400 extrasystoles in a 24h period!

    Doc changed his mind, said these are way too many extrasystoles and offered me to take a beta blocker which I don’t want to take. These have nasty side effects such as lowering blood pressure (my blood pressure is fine), lowering Metabolism by 4-8% (evidence shows slow weight gain), fatigue, depression. And I also have raynaud’s syndrome which it can aggravate. To summarize it’s a patch to mask a problem which creating others.

    I went to another doc he said wait another month and do another Holter no need to take meds if you don’t want but it wouldn’t hurt.

    Everybody’s saying extrasystoles are nothing to worry about but the first doc told me too many extrasystoles can stress the heart too much.

    I am very lean lean and in great physical shape and low body fat. I am already taking a lot of quality Magnesium supplement for a long time way before the extrasystoles issues. It doesn’t seem to affect it. I don’t take potassium supplement though.

    All foods are loaded with sodium, it would never hurt getting a potassium supplement to balance the sodium intake. What kind of potassium supplement are you taking?

    How many extrasystoles did you experience?

    Thanks

    • Hi, Ed. First of all, I think it might be best to share your concerns regarding the side effects of the beta blocker you have been prescribed and the health risks it may hold for you with your doctor. Your doctor needs to know about your choice and the reasons behind it so he or she can know how to advise you further on the matter. Secondly, I didn’t really want to know how many extrasystoles I had. What I can tell you is that I had good days, with occasional extrasystoles, and really bad days. At their worst, my extrasystoles were present night and day. I couldn’t eat or sleep and I had become extremely anxious, even a little depressed because I didn’t see any solution to my problem at the time. Because I couldn’t go on like that, I made serious changes in my diet and lifestyle. Coffee, alcoholic beverages, herbal teas rich in caffeine and theine, both stimulants (green tea, black tea, white tea, Oolong tea), dark chocolate, cocoa, caffeinated beverages, cigarette smoke, sleepless nights, fatigue, stress can all lead to extrasystoles. But making changes in my diet and lifestyle wasn’t enough to make my extrasystoles disappear completely. Only when I started taking a B complex, but most importantly potassium and magnesium dietary supplements did I see real improvements. Potassium is the one responsible for regulating heart contractions. I have been taking a Romanian brand called Aspacardin with potassium aspartate and magnesium aspartate, with 39 mg of potassium and 12 mg of magnesium per tablet. I take one first thing in the morning, another in the afternoon and a third before I sleep. Although I saw results in a week or two, it took several months for my extrasystoles to completely disappear. As you can see, my intake from dietary supplements isn’t extraordinary, but it’s the right amount for me. My advice is to talk to your doctor about you wanting to try an alternative solution (dietary supplements) before receiving a beta blocker. Ask your doctor if you can take magnesium, potassium and some B vitamins, but quality ones, for two weeks or a month. Check in with him or her regularly on your progress and see if you notice any improvements. Even when you are taking dietary supplements, remember to eat right, enjoy some peace and calm and make time to relax. Wishing you lots of health.

  11. Hello, first sorry for my English. I am facing extrasystoles for 5 years. Am so worried about it. I went to a doctor years ago and I did the echo and 24 hours holter test. He told me nothing there is nothing to worry about. Is there any other test I should do? I am not convinced and sometimes I feel my heart beat skipping every 2 seconds. And when I make effort I feel fast heart beat and hard respiration. Thanks for your help.

    • Hi, Ton. If you don’t feel satisfied with the tests, you can go to another doctor and redo them just to be sure. Usually, extrasystoles are not dangerous. However, they make you think something might be wrong with you and generate anxiety and stress which cause them to get even worse. I also suffered from extrasystoles and went through the same despair that you are going through now. I found it really helped to supplement with some quality magnesium and potassium every day and give up anything that had a stimulant effect (coffee or caffeinated beverages, sodas, cocoa, chocolate, green tea, white tea, black tea, oolong tea and so on). After taking magnesium and potassium for several weeks I started noticing some improvements: I did not experience as many extrasystoles as before and they were less intense. It took several months until they disappeared but I keep taking my minerals. As for the hard breathing, if your doctor tells you everything is fine, it might just be because you are not used to intense physical exercise (it takes time for the body to get used to effort). You should also get yourself a wrist blood pressure monitor to monitor your blood pressure. Again, potassium and magnesium work for basically any problem having to do with the cardiovascular system (but not physical defects) and your doctor should help you decide on some quality supplements suited for your needs. Just remember it will take time for changes to take place and the condition to improve. Wishing you lots of health.

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