An ectopic heartbeat occurs as the result of an irregular or premature heartbeat. Other medical terms for this phenomenon include premature ventricular contraction, premature atrial contraction, and extrasystole.
It may feel like your heart is momentarily fluttering or skipping a beat. But, what is an ectopic heartbeat exactly? The real reason you may experience one is because your heart can sometimes have an early beat, then momentarily pause before it goes back to its normal rhythm.
Experiencing the occasional ectopic heartbeat is actually quite common for most people and the issue typically resolves itself. However, if it persists and happens repeatedly, then you should seek medical attention.
There are currently no known medical causes of ectopic heartbeats. However, there are a few physical, emotional, and psychological factors that can influence or trigger it.
People with pre-existing heart conditions or those who’ve suffered heart attacks in the past are more likely to experience occasional or frequent ectopic heartbeats.
Some women may also experience ectopic heartbeats if they’re approaching menopause or during pregnancy due to the added pressure on their hearts.
While most people typically don’t experience any symptoms of ectopic heartbeats other than the feeling of their heart skipping a beat, there are a few cases in which this condition may indicate that there’s an underlying medical issue.
Your heartbeat isn’t typically something you pay much attention to unless it does something out of the ordinary. Rest assured knowing that the occasional ectopic heartbeat is absolutely harmless and there’s nothing to worry about. However, if this is something you experience frequently, you should discuss it with your doctor.
Given that ectopic heartbeats are typically isolated incidents, not to mention the fact that there’s no definitive etiological reason for them to occur, they’re extremely difficult to diagnose. As a result, there are no identifying medical tests that are specially formulated to detect this condition and all doctors have to go on is the frequency with which they occur.
As mentioned, sporadic ectopic heartbeats are perfectly normal and can occur as the result of some lifestyle choices or bad habits, such as drinking and smoking. However, if they happen frequently, you should consult your doctor because this could be an indication of an underlying or undiagnosed health condition.
To begin with, your doctor will ask you a few questions to gain a clear understanding of your medical history. They’ll want to determine if your frequent ectopic heartbeats are accompanied by other revealing symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pains. In addition to listening to your heartbeat with a stethoscope to identify heart murmurs or irregular beats, your physician may also order the following examinations to rule out any serious illnesses:
There is no specific treatment for an ectopic heartbeat because it’s not a standalone disease. Although ectopic heartbeat can be an indicator of a more serious underlying health problem, the condition typically resolves or corrects itself almost immediately without any medical intervention. However, if the symptoms associated with ectopic heartbeats persist or worsen, then you should seek medical attention.
Your doctor will conduct either some or all of the aforementioned medical examinations to try to determine the core cause of the problem and then apply the appropriate medical treatments based on their analysis and diagnosis.
Patients who’ve previously suffered heart attacks may be placed on medications such as beta-blockers as a preventative measure. Angioplasty or bypass surgery may also be implemented for patients who have a history of heart disease.
The best way to prevent ectopic heartbeats from taking over your life is figuring out the root cause. Sometimes, simple lifestyle changes like quitting smoking and chewing tobacco or cutting down on your caffeine intake and incorporating stress-relieving exercises into your daily routine can make a big difference.
A lack of regular exercise leading to an unhealthy lifestyle can be a major trigger for ectopic heartbeats. A good way to remedy this problem is to let go of your unhealthy habits such as eating extremely fatty foods, drinking too much alcohol or coffee, and smoking.
You should also start exercising on a regular basis. There are specific ectopic heartbeat exercises that are ideal for helping you learn to control your breathing and elevating your heart rate. These include yoga, Pilates, running, swimming, and bike riding.
Always consult your doctor for assistance with properly implementing dietary changes, finding smoking and alcohol cessation programs, and incorporating new exercises into your daily routine. They can provide you with useful information on how to accomplish all of your health goals in a productive manner that’s conducive to your body and lifestyle.
Generally speaking, ectopic heartbeats are nothing to be concerned about if they happen once in a while. However, if you notice that they’re getting worse over time, you’re experiencing them more frequently, or they’re accompanied by other symptoms, then you should speak to your doctor immediately. It’s important to rule out or diagnose any potentially dangerous or serious health problems as soon as possible so that appropriate treatments can be administered.