Premature ventricular contractions, or PVCs, are extra heartbeats. They can arise from an irritable area in one of the ventricles. PVCs are usually felt as a missed beat or a fluttering in the chest. PVCs are relatively common and can occur during exercise because of the increased adrenaline in your system. According to the American Heart Association, PVCs are often harmless but can signal a more serious heart problem. Frequent PVCs that occur during exercise should always be brought to the attention of your doctor.
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Your heart is made up of two upper chambers, atria, and two lower chambers, ventricles. Your heartbeat travels from your atria to your ventricles. Ventricles contract and pump blood to your lungs and body. PVCs are abnormal contractions that begin in the ventricles and which are sooner than the next normal heartbeat. PVCs can then interrupt the normal sequence of pumping and are usually less effective at pumping blood required by other body systems.
According to the National Institutes of Health, PVCs can be caused by various triggers such as heart disease, changes in your blood potassium level, smoking, caffeine or certain medications. Exercise may trigger PVCs because exercise causes an increased amount of adrenaline to circulate in the body, which can potentially result in ventricular irritability and electrical stimulation. Although frequent PVCs during exercise may be harmless, the condition should always be evaluated by your doctor.
An exercise stress ECG is used to test the effects of exercise on your heart while you are monitored. An electrocardiography is used to monitor and record the electrical activity in your heart while you exercise on a treadmill or use an exercise bike. A medical professional can use this test to determine the health significance of your PVCs. If exercise makes them more frequent, it may indicate the presence of a rhythm problem that needs further evaluation. An exercise stress ECG is simply a diagnostic tool that allows a doctor to determine if further medical tests are required.
According to an article published in the American Heart Association's journal "Circulation" in 2004, several studies have shown no link between exercise-induced PVCs and increased mortality related to a heart problem. If you have no cardiac symptoms other than PVCs that occur during exercise, the indications are that you should be closely monitored. The occurrence of PVCs does not necessarily indicate an increased risk of heart disease over the period of a few years. Studies will continue to determine the relationship between exercise and PVCs.