Stress and anxiety can trigger premature ventricular contractions (PVCs), a type of arrhythmia.
Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) can be caused by emotional stress and anxiety, among other factors. PVCs are a common type of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) that may cause you to feel like your heart is fluttering.
In a standard healthy population, PVCs have been
Emotional stress, including feelings of anxiety and anger, can trigger PVCs and other arrhythmias.
PVCs don’t always require treatment — it’s possible to occasionally experience PVCs without it affecting your heart and health. However, you might need treatment if you get frequent or bothersome PVCs, or if you have a heart condition.
Mental stress can trigger arrhythmias of all kinds, according to a 2022 study. A
Conversely, PVCs can cause anxiety and stress, especially if you experience them frequently. The feeling of a fluttering heartbeat, as well as worry about the state of your heart, can be anxiety-inducing.
Not everybody who experiences immense stress and anxiety will have an arrhythmia. A
How do stress and anxiety affect cardiac arrhythmias?
Stress and anxiety can induce cardiac arrhythmias, according to research.
When you experience stress, your body will releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones can help your body get into “flight or fight mode” by increasing your heart rate and constricting your blood vessels. This may trigger or worsen arrhythmias, including PVCs.
In addition to this, anxiety and stress increase your chances of developing high blood pressure (hypertension). This is especially true for chronic stress, no matter your age, according to a
If you have high blood pressure, you’re more likely to experience heart problems, including PVCs. High blood pressure is considered a risk factor for PVCs and other cardiovascular issues.
Some studies suggest that
However, if you have symptoms, they may include:
You may be at a higher risk of PVCs if you:
- were assigned male at birth
- are older (65+)
- are sedentary (don’t exercise)
- consume high amounts of caffeine and alcohol
- experience chronic levels of stress
- experience long-term socioeconomic difficulties
- have an anxiety disorder
- have high blood pressure
- have low levels of magnesium and potassium
- use tobacco
- use other stimulants, such as cocaine or methamphetamines
Although some of these risk factors (such as your sex and age) are out of your hands, you can reduce your risk of PVCs and other heart conditions by making certain lifestyle changes.
PVCs don’t always require treatment, and they aren’t always something to worry about. However, you should seek treatment for PVCs if you have a cardiovascular condition, including high blood pressure or heart disease, or have a history of heart attacks.
If PVCs make you feel very anxious, or if they’re affecting your quality of life, it may be wise to seek treatment.
Stress-induced arrhythmias can be treated in multiple ways. In some cases, medical professionals may suggest a few different treatments.
Beta-blockers are often prescribed for tachycardia, PVCs, and certain anxiety disorders. Beta-blockers stop the effects of adrenaline to prevent your heart rate from speeding up. This medication can also lower your blood pressure.
Commonly used beta-blockers include:
- acebutolol (Sectral)
- atenolol (Tenormin)
- bisoprolol (Zebeta)
- metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL)
- nadolol (Corgard)
- propranolol (Inderal LA, InnoPran XL)
Beta-blockers may cause side effects such as headaches, fatigue, and digestive issues.
In some cases, a doctor might prescribe antiarrhythmic medications. These can include:
- amiodarone (Cordarone, Pacerone)
- flecainide (Tambocor)
- procainamide (Procan, Procanbid)
- propafenone (Rythmol)
- quinidine (many brand names)
- tocainide (Tonocarid)
Although these medications can help prevent arrhythmia, they may cause some people to have arrhythmia more frequently. If you think you’re experiencing an arrhythmia even though you’re on antiarrhythmic medication, make an appointment to see a doctor as soon as possible.
A catheter ablation is a procedure in which a catheter wire is inserted into a vein that travels to the lower chamber of the heart. Doctors are then able to detect the part of the heart that’s responsible for PVCs. They’ll use radiofrequency or cryotherapy to treat that area of the heart and reduce the PVCs.
This procedure is less common and is usually only used for people with a high burden of PVCs that have led to a weakened heart muscle, known as PVC-induced cardiomyopathy. Risks and benefits should be discussed with a healthcare professional.
Certain lifestyle changes may reduce the severity and frequency of stress-related PVCs. These lifestyle changes are also good for reducing your chances of developing other heart conditions.
Where possible, try to do the following:
- Avoid stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamines.
- Reduce or stop consuming tobacco.
- Engage in moderate, frequent exercise.
- Eat a balanced, nutritious diet.
- Get your magnesium and potassium levels checked and supplement if necessary.
- Reduce your consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
Managing high blood pressure is also essential for avoiding PVCs and other heart conditions. Get your blood pressure checked and, if it’s high, speak with a doctor about managing it effectively. Managing high blood pressure can include using the medications you’ve been prescribed and using self-care techniques.
Stress management techniques
Since stress is a major trigger for PVCs and other kinds of arrhythmias, it’s essential to learn to manage stress well.
Healthy stress management techniques can include:
- engaging in hobbies
- getting enough sleep
- getting massages (or massaging yourself)
- listening to music
- socializing with loved ones
time in nature
- trying deep breathing exercises
- doing yoga
Another tip is to try to take on less stress where possible. You can’t avoid stress entirely, and some stressors — such as a work project or a volunteering commitment you like — may add joy to your life.
However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s a good idea to evaluate your commitments and consider whether you should cut back on certain responsibilities. Are you taking on more than you can handle? If so, which responsibilities could take a back seat?
Many people also benefit from therapy, whether short-term or long-term. Therapy can teach you to process and manage your feelings as well as to change your behavior and thought patterns to reduce distress and anxiety.
Research suggests stress and PVCs are often linked. Although a PVC diagnosis doesn’t always require treatment, if you’re experiencing symptoms, such as chest pain or shortness of breath, it’s important to talk with a doctor.
A doctor can prescribe medication to manage your symptoms and may also recommend therapy to manage your stress levels.