When you have anxiety, it can cause your body to react in many ways. During an anxiety attack, your heart rate may increase to a rate than can have lasting effects on your cardiovascular system. But can anxiety cause PVCs? In some cases, this is not something to worry about, but in others, you should speak to your doctor.
Most people will have premature ventricular contractions at some point in their life. If you are in good health and they happen infrequently, there is no reason for concern. However, PVCs may be a sign of an underlying condition.
One of these possible conditions is anxiety. During these times of increased stress, your heart may have abnormal palpitations. These palpitations present as fluttering, skipping a beat or even jumping or pounding of the heart, which can exacerbate already severe anxiety symptoms.
What is PVCS?
Extra heartbeats that start in the lower sections of the heart are known as premature ventricular contractions. Some other names for these extra beats are premature ventricular complexes, ventricular premature beats, and ventricular extrasystoles. For the most part, PVCS is relatively harmless.
There are only a few symptoms of PVCs. While these symptoms usually only cause mild annoyance, they can affect the heart. If you experience them frequently, it is essential to talk to your doctor so they can ensure it is nothing serious.
- Increased awareness of heartbeat
- Missed or skipped beats
- Pounding or jumping
Most of the time, pinning down a cause for PVCS is difficult. Many cases of PVCS occur at random and have no known reason. However, some risk factors can increase the likeliness of having PVCs.
Possible Causes and Triggers
- High blood pressure
- Some medications
- Heart disease
Regardless of the reason for your PVCS, see your doctor if it interferes with your daily life. If not, it can lead to more problems down the line.
Anxiety's Effects on the Heart
Anxiety can have a significant impact on your automatic nervous system (ANS). Since it is your body's response to stress, feelings of anxiety may trigger your 'fight or flight response.' This response activates the ANS, regulating the lungs, heart, various muscles, and digestive system.
Other symptoms can accompany PVCs, but they do not affect a diagnosis. Sweating, trembling, rapid breathing, and muscle tension are a few of them. Underlying conditions may cause these additional symptoms.
Arrhythmias are a common heart problem related to palpitations. The types of arrhythmia have separate symptoms, but they all change the heart's behavior. Doctors split up different arrhythmias into the following categories: atrial fibrillation, tachycardia, and bradycardia.
- Atrial Fibrillation - This condition occurs when the upper and lower chambers of the heartbeat out of sync, causing the heart to beat chaotically.
- Tachycardia - Characterized by the heart's rapid beating, this type of arrhythmia may last a few minutes or even longer.
- Bradycardia - When the heart beats slower than 60 beats a minute, it feels like a dull thudding and may be quite troubling.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Unless your heart palpitations last for hours at a time, you do not need to speak with your doctor. You should also talk to them if you cannot identify a cause related to anxiety. It may merely be a side effect of medication, but it can also be a sign of something more serious.
- Thyroid disease
- Heart Conditions
- Low blood pressure
Several tests are available to help your doctor identify what is going on with your heart. After a physical exam, the next step may require more screening. The following are some of the ways your doctor may test your heart:
- Electrocardiogram - By using electrodes attached to your chest, this test will measure your heart's electrical activity.
- Exercise stress ECG - Using electrocardiography, tests your heart while you are moving. This test helps to figure out if exercise triggers your symptoms.
- Holter monitor - After wearing this monitor 24 hours a day for up to three days, this test is less effective at picking up infrequent palpitations.
- Event recorder - If a Holter monitor is ineffective in picking up anything, this test may help instead. Able to be worn for weeks at a time, it records symptoms at the press of a button.
A few factors can increase your risk of PVCs. These factors may or may not have a relationship with your heart palpitations. However, they are still essential to consider.
If you fall into one of the risk factor categories, you may want to talk to your doctor. Even if the palpitations you experience are infrequent, there could still be an underlying condition you are unaware of. These risk factors are as follows:
- Old age
- African American
- Male gender
- Bundle branch block
- Underlying ischemic heart disease
A few treatments exist that can help with problematic PVCs. Not everything will work for everyone, so there may be some trial and error before your doctor finds something that works. Even if that is the case, relief is entirely possible.
- Beta-blockers, anti-arrhythmic drugs, or beta-blockers may alleviate symptoms of palpitations.
- Radiofrequency catheter ablation
- If nothing else works, ablation therapy is a possibility. By using radiofrequency energy, this therapy works to destroy the heart tissue causing your PVCs.
- Lifestyle changes
If you consume significant amounts of caffeine or alcohol, your doctor may recommend cutting back. This recommendation goes for tobacco use as well.
Overall, PVCS is not a huge problem to address immediately. Unless symptoms affect your life, you do not need to discuss them with your doctor. However, if you fall under any risk factors, making sure your heart is healthy, never hurts.
Anxiety can cause PVCs by increasing your heart rate every single time. If you are experiencing this, your doctor may put you on medication or recommend lifestyle changes to help you feel better. Your doctor will help you decide which course of action is best for you.