Premature ventricular contractions are common and usually no cause for concern. But sometimes you may need to see a doctor.

A premature ventricular contraction (PVC) is a heartbeat that starts in a different part of the heart than usual. A PVC (or lots of PVCs) can make you feel like your heart is fluttering inside your chest. PVCs can happen to you at any age.

PVCs aren’t usually something for you to worry about. They are quite common. Holter monitor studies suggest that up to 75% of people experience PVCs without any symptoms.

But if they cause significant symptoms, like feeling faint, talk with your doctor about lifestyle interventions and treatments.

Keep reading to learn more about PVCs, their risk factors, and treatments.

Electrical signals in your heart cause it to beat a regular rhythm. The signal usually starts from the sinoatrial node (SA or sinus node). The SA node, a bundle of fibers in the top right portion of the heart (or right atrium), usually sends out an impulse that tells your heart to beat.

But when a person has PVCs, the heart gets an electrical signal from a different area of the heart, known as the Purkinje fibers. These fibers are in the bottom part of the heart (or ventricle). They’re usually where electrical signals tell the ventricles to contract.

The effect of the Purkinje fibers causing the ventricles to contract can delay the next heartbeat. To you, this may feel like your heart is fluttering or as if it skipped a beat.

A PVC might be isolated or several might occur in a row. Doctors define three or more PVCs in a row as ventricular tachycardia, another arrhythmia. PVCs also increase in frequency with age.

Most people with PVCs never have any symptoms. Although PVCs are common, most people don’t know they even have them until an electrocardiogram or Holter monitor indicates it.

If you do have symptoms, they may include:

PVCs are usually no cause for concern in young people. There could be a risk of complications if you are older and have an underlying heart condition, such as heart disease.

You should contact a doctor if you feel like your heart is skipping a beat or constantly fluttering. This is especially true if you have felt faint, dizzy, or have a known heart condition.

If PVCs affect your quality of life or make you very anxious, talk with a doctor. Multiple interventions can help you feel better.

Occasional PVCs are usually not problematic to you or your health. But if you have too many in a row, your heart may not pump enough blood, and your blood pressure will drop. This can make you feel faint and dizzy.

According to a 2017 report, having more than 10,000 and up to 20,000 PVCs a day can decrease your heart’s function. Doctors refer to this as PVC-induced cardiomyopathy. It’s reversible in most patients if the PVCs are treated.

Some studies say that having more than 1,000 PVCs a day can weaken your left ventricle over several years. This can increase your risk of developing dilated cardiomyopathy, sometimes called an enlarged heart.

If your doctor has already diagnosed heart disease, PVCs can increase your mortality risk or risk for early death. Talk with them about how to minimize your risks.

How many times does your heart beat in a day?

Having thousands of PVCs a day can put you at risk for decreased heart function. To put those numbers in context, your heart beats about 100,000 times a day. Having 10,000 PVCs a day means you have about a 10% PVC burden.

Most healthcare professionals won’t recommend treating PVCs unless they are causing you significant symptoms. If you have symptoms with your PVCs, a doctor may recommend lifestyle changes or prescribe medications that reduce the incidence of PVCs. Examples of medications include:

If these medicines don’t control your PVC symptoms or you have lots (thousands) of PVCs a day, a doctor may recommend radiofrequency catheter ablation. A specialist called an electrophysiologist performs this procedure.

During the procedure, the doctor will thread a special catheter through your groin or wrist to your heart. There, the doctor will try to identify the source of the unusual signals causing your PVCs. They will then ablate, or purposefully damage, that area of tissue so it can no longer send the incorrect signals.

Most doctors don’t know exactly what causes PVCs. But some factors can increase your risk of having PVCs, including:

Some medical conditions increase your likelihood of having PVCs. These include:

While there are some risk factors for PVCs you can’t control, there are some you can. If you experience PVCs, you could try the following lifestyle changes.

  • Reduce your daily caffeine intake. Consider switching to decaffeinated products or mix half-caffeine and half-decaffeinated as you scale back your intake.
  • Take steps to reduce stress in your life. Examples could include taking 15 minutes a day to meditate, journal, read, or engage in another relaxing activity you enjoy.
  • Get enough sleep. Adopting regular bedtimes and keeping your bedroom cool and dark can help to improve your sleep quality.
  • Refrain from using substances known to increase your risks for PVCs, such as tobacco and alcohol.

Talk with a doctor about specific steps you can take to reduce your risk.

The following are some frequently asked questions about PVCs.

What’s the difference between PVCs and PACs?

Premature atrial contractions, or PACs, are when the top part of the heart (atrium) contracts before making a complete beat. With PVCs, the bottom part of the heart (ventricle) contracts too early.

Both conditions can cause similar symptoms, especially a feeling of fluttering in the heart. While PVCs increase your risk of cardiomyopathy, PACs likely don’t. That’s according to a 2019 study that also found PACs to be associated with a higher risk of developing more severe arrhythmias, like atrial fibrillation or supraventricular tachycardia.

Is it safe to exercise with PVCs?

Intense and frequent exercisers may be at greater risk of having PVCs, but they don’t usually cause significant side effects. Because physical activity benefits your overall health, doctors won’t usually recommend stopping exercising just because you have PVCs. Consider talking with a doctor about how you can exercise most safely.

Can I live a long life with frequent PVCs?

Many people who have PVCs never experience significant complications from having them. PVCs are most concerning in people who already have heart disease or have thousands of PVCs daily. Because every person’s experience can differ, you can ask a doctor about your specific outlook.

PVCs aren’t usually a cause for concern. Though unusual, they are not an uncommon experience for healthy people.

You can get PVCs at any age. But older adults, especially those with heart problems, are at greater risk for complications.

Other than your heart fluttering or skipping a beat, you’re unlikely to have any symptoms. If you experience symptoms, such as feeling faint or dizzy, you may need to consult a doctor.