Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD.
As the name suggests,
premature atrial contractions (PACs) are contractions in the atria of the heart
that occur too early in the rhythm sequence. Abnormal electrical impulses signal
the atria to beat prematurely. PACs are very common and can happen in otherwise
healthy persons. Most persons who have PACs never notice them. Because PACs
occur out of the normal rhythm, this condition is an arrhythmia. The physician
may notice an irregular pulse, or the PACs may be found on an electrocardiogram
(ECG). The most common cause of PACs among healthy persons is ingestion of
caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol or exposure to stress. PACs are found more
frequently among persons with heart disease such as ischemia (decreased blood
flow to the heart muscle) or congestive heart failure (decreased pumping
efficiency of the heart). Persons with heart disease are more likely to have
PACs convert to atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter (two types of atrial
arrhythmias). Chronic pulmonary disease may make PACs more frequent, as can
electrolyte (salts in the blood)
persons with no symptoms of heart or lung disease need no specific treatment.
The condition may resolve on its own or may be less frequent if one cuts down on
caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and stress. Persons with PACs can exercise safely
and need no special dietary changes other than reductions in alcohol and
caffeine. PACs may be controlled with anti-arrhythmic medications, but the main
goal is to manage evident heart or lung
•Reduce your intake of
caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine and your exposure to stress), especially if you
have heart or lung disease.
•Do not neglect
therapy for heart or lung disease.
to Call Your Doctor
•If you have
palpitations (rapid heartbeat), chest pain, shortness of breath, or