Extrasystoles of the heart are a disturbance in normal heart rhythm which causes a premature heart beat. The premature heart beat is often felt like a skipped heart beat, if felt at all. Extrasystoles of the heart commonly go unnoticed, but if symptomatic, they tend to cause significant mental and emotional distress. Causes of extrasystoles are diverse, and very often a result of specific nutritional deficiencies, or poor dietary and lifestyle habits.
What are extrasystoles of the heart?
Heart beats have a regular occurrence which is known as heart rhythm. The exact number of heart beats per minute is 50-60 t0 100 at rest, and higher when engaged in physical activity. When the regularity of the heart rhythm is disturbed, arrhythmias occur. Arrhythmia means an irregularity in heart rhythm, such as extra heart beats or premature heart beats, meaning extrasystoles are a type of arrhythmia. And because the starting point of extrasystoles is the heart itself, they are also commonly called ‘extrasystoles of the heart’.
What causes extrasystoles of the heart?
Extrasystoles are caused by disturbances in the electrical activity of the heart. More exactly, specialized heart muscle cells that are responsible for triggering heart contractions (or heartbeats) fire electrical impulses at the wrong time, generating heart contractions outside of the normal rhythm of the heart.
Extrasystoles are also caused by mishaps in the electrical conduction system of the heart, meaning the impulse for heart contractions arises from heart muscle cells other than those normally responsible for initiating heart contractions. For example, tissue in the heart muscle called Purkinje tissue is known to initiate electrical impulses that trigger Premature Ventricular Contractions, or PVCs, which are one of the major types of extrasystoles. Find out more about what are the different types of extrasystoles.
What triggers extrasystoles of the heart?
Nutritional deficiencies that affect the electrical activity of the heart
The nervous system regulates the activity of every muscle in the body via electrical impulses. The heart too is a muscle and functions based off of electrical impulses it receives from nerve cells in the nervous system. Electrical impulses tell the heart when to contract and relax which is what makes it pump blood. But electrical impulses need an access way to travel in order to generate an action in muscles. That access way is represented, among others, by chemicals such as potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium, copper, zinc and more.
In nutrition science, chemicals such as potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium, copper, zinc and others are classified as dietary minerals and are essential nutrients, meaning they should be provided in the diet on a daily basis because they are essential to good health. Not getting enough potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium and other dietary minerals in the diet causes deficiencies in the body and affects the good functioning of systems and organs.
For instance, a potassium, magnesium, calcium or sodium deficiency can impact the electrical conduction system of the heart and subsequently affect the propagation of electrical impulses that generate heart contractions. This causes, among others, extrasystoles of the heart which is when electrical impulses for heart contractions are generated prematurely, resulting in what is perceived as a skipped heartbeat or an extra heartbeat.
When it comes to extrasystoles, magnesium deficiency should be tackled separately because of how important magnesium is for both the nervous system and the muscular system, with benefits for physical and mental health. Magnesium deficiency is known to severely affect muscle function – it causes muscle spasms such as eyelid twitching or thigh twitching, painful muscle cramps such as foot cramps or leg cramps at night or leg cramps after exercising, but also arrhythmias such as extrasystoles.
Magnesium deficiency not only causes extrasystoles, but can also worsen them if it’s severe and remains uncorrected. It has been estimated that two thirds of US adults have some degree of magnesium deficiency. Most people suffer from magnesium deficiency to a certain extent, and most people that do, don’t even know it.
If your heart rate goes up to the point you’re feeling sick, if you are experiencing palpitations or skipped heartbeats, if you are angry and can’t seem to shake it off, if you can’t sleep or are anxious and agitated, taking just one dose of magnesium at 300 mg, 350 mg or 400 mg can help you tremendously, with effects visible in a matter of minutes. And you can choose between different magnesium forms until you find the best absorbed magnesium formula for you.
B vitamins deficiency
B vitamins are best known for their role in energy metabolism, helping the body process fats, carbohydrates and protein and produce red blood cells for energy and vitality. But B vitamins are just as important for the brain and nervous system, and the heart. For instance, vitamin B12 plays a vital role in the synthesis of the myelin sheath, the protective coating insulating nerve cells. A deficiency can negatively impact the propagation of electrical impulses, and affect the electrical conduction system of the heart that regulates heart contractions. Degradation of the myelin sheath has also been identified in degenerative diseases of the nervous system such as multiple sclerosis.
Vitamin B6 is involved in the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters that regulate nervous system activity. Neurotransmitters transmit signals from nerve cells to other nerve cells, but also muscle cells, including heart muscle cells. These chemical messengers are vital for regulating heart activity, among other functions, and can contribute to benefits for extrasystoles and other types of arrhythmia.
Deficiency of B vitamins also causes extrasystoles indirectly, via the role B vitamins play in the synthesis of neurotransmitters. For example, vitamin B6 is involved in serotonin production – serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps boost mood and reduce agitation, stress and anxiety, favoring relaxation and sleep. If your extrasystoles are triggered by stress, anxiety, sleep deprivation, agitation, then getting enough vitamin B6 can help stop them.
Vitamin B6 is also involved in the production of GABA, or gamma-Aminobutyric acid, which is a neurotransmitter with an inhibitory effect on the nervous system. GABA reduces excitability of neurons throughout the nervous system which can have a positive effect on mood, with a beneficial impact on arrhythmias such as extrasystoles. The neurotransmitter is also more distantly involved in the production of a precursor to melatonin, from serotonin, which helps regulate circadian rhythms. Regulation of circadian rhythms favors restful sleep and combats sleep problems and sleep deprivation, also causes of extrasystoles.
Stimulants such as coffee, green tea, soda, energy drinks, cocoa, dark chocolate
Stimulants over-excite the nervous system which, in turn, passes that overexcitement over to the rest of the body such as the brain, the endocrine system and muscles such as the heart. Normally, a cup of coffee or green tea, some dark chocolate or hot cocoa, even a soda can or one energy drink produce limited effects that wear off over the course of a few hours.
But in naturally more agitated individuals, people under a lot of stress, that are sleep deprived, people with existing nutritional deficiencies such as magnesium deficiency, people with anxiety and even depression, and especially people with high blood pressure and arrhythmias such as extrasystoles, such stimulants aggravate their symptoms.
Caffeine in coffee, green tea, black tea and white tea, energy drinks and soda, theine which is caffeine from tea, theobromine and theophylline in cocoa and chocolate are all stimulants of the nervous system that should be consumed infrequently, or avoided completely in order to stop extrasystoles.
High sugar intake
A high sugar intake is bad for you if you have extrasystoles. Sugar, especially readily usable sugar from processed foods, is absorbed rapidly in the bloodstream and raises blood sugar levels, causing spikes that translate into bursts of energy. Sugar can make you agitated, overexcited, too energetic for sleep, favoring extrasystoles.
Foods high in sugar are also typically unhealthy foods. You don’t fill up on sugar from eating just bananas or apples or berries, although you technically can. No. If you do fill up on sugar, it’s almost always from unhealthy options such as soda, baked sweets, chocolate, candy or actual table sugar. A high sugar intake is the hallmark of a poor diet, usually high in processed foods, and that often also means nutritional deficiencies such as magnesium deficiency which further favors extrasystoles.
Extrasystoles and stress
Extrasystoles of the heart can be triggered by stress, both high-level acute stress such as receiving very bad news unexpectedly, and low-level chronic stress that lasts for weeks or months, such as stress at work, renovations to the house or relocating to another city or country. Stress causes a fight-or-flight response that activates your body in an unhealthy way. If you are already dealing with extrasystoles, stress can worsen them, and if you are not, stress can cause them.
It’s important to find ways to reduce your stress levels, and remove stress triggers if you want to stop extrasystoles. Simple things you can do on a daily basis can help a lot. For example, having one hour to yourself after a long day at work, whether it’s scrolling on the phone, reading a book, playing a sport, or just taking a nap. If you receive bad news unexpectedly, taking just one magnesium supplement can help you better process things by lowering your blood pressure and heart rate, and reducing your anxiety levels.
Can anxiety cause extrasystoles? Extrasystoles and anxiety go hand in hand. Chances are, if you have anxiety that is pathological, whether it’s general anxiety disorder or panic attacks or another form of anxiety, you’ve already experienced some cardiovascular symptoms. Palpitations, extrasystoles, high blood pressure, high heart rate are common side effects of anxiety attacks.
Anxiety requires a multidisciplinary approach which may include therapy to help you process your emotions, taking dietary supplements such as magnesium supplements and B vitamins supplements to help your body through the physiological side effects of anxiety, setting up a sleeping schedule, eating healthier, cleaner, becoming physically active by going to the gym or practicing a sport, and other proactive initiatives.
Extrasystoles and depression
The importance of mental health is grossly underestimated. Mental illness almost always produces physical symptoms that aggravate the primary condition. Both anxiety and depression can lead to sleep deprivation, eating disorders, weight loss or weight gain, and, very commonly, cardiovascular manifestations such as breathlessness, tachycardia, palpitations and arrhythmias such as extrasystoles.
Sleep deprivation is one of the many causes of extrasystoles. Sleep deprivation itself can be caused by nutritional deficiencies, stress, anxiety, depression and other forms of mental illness, physical disease, poor work-life balance, a poor diet, bad lifestyle habits, excessive intake of stimulants such as coffee, green tea, energy drinks, chocolate and more.
Sleep deprivation wears out the body physically and mentally, making extrasystoles both more likely and worse. Sleep deprivation is also a cause for nutritional deficiencies which can impact the electrical conduction system of the heart and lead to extrasystoles. Sleep deprivation can indicate mental health issues such as anxiety and depression which often have physical manifestations such as palpitations and extrasystoles.
Extrasystoles before sleep
A lot of people with extrasystoles experience them at night when they lie down in bed and get ready to sleep. For some people, extrasystoles are worse at night, before sleep. Physical causes for extrasystoles at night before sleep include acid reflux and heartburn, consumption of stimulants such as coffee, green tea, dark chocolate or energy drinks too close to bedtime, poor lifestyle habits (working too much, eating dinner too late, eating too much at dinnertime, having late night snacks, poor choice of food, staying out late), while psychological causes include anxiety, depression, stress.
Extrasystoles after eating
Have you even experienced extrasystoles after eating? Extrasystoles after eating is not as rare as you’d think. They are primarily caused by digestive issues such as acid reflux, whether isolated episodes or acid reflux disease (GERD), and indigestion. This is due to eating too much at once, eating fried foods, foods that are too heavy, too spicy or processed foods. If you continue to have extrasystoles post-meal, then it’s time to change your diet and your relationship with food, and start eating cleaner. See what foods to eat and to avoid for acid reflux.
Smoking is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease worldwide. While it may not produce symptoms immediately, long-term it is devastating for cardiovascular health and the respiratory system, often times with irreparable effects. Smoking is known to narrow blood vessels which affects blood circulation and puts extra strain on the heart when it comes to pumping blood, raising blood pressure. Smoking causes cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.
Smoking has a stimulant effect on the nervous system – the inhaled chemicals trigger excitatory reactions at the level of the nervous system, actively modifying nervous system activity. Smoking causes arrhythmias, including extra systoles, both directly and indirectly via its effects on the cardiovascular and nervous systems.
Physical abnormalities and cardiovascular disease
Extrasystoles are, for the most part, harmless. But that doesn’t mean they are always harmless. In some cases, extrasystoles are caused by physical abnormalities of the heart or vascular system brought on by disease or defects. Even though you shouldn’t worry, it’s important to still make an appointment with your doctor and have some tests just to rule out any potential underlying issues. If you already have some form of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, enlarged heart or heart failure, or a history of heart attacks, it’s a good idea to see your doctor about your extrasystoles.
This post was updated on Sunday / February 28th, 2021 at 2:05 AM