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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Extra beats (ectopic beats)

Kakapa manawa anō

Ectopic beats, also called extra beats or extra systoles are a very common heart rhythm disturbance.

In everyone's heart, there is a part that works like a natural pacemaker by setting the heart rate and rhythm. If you have extra beats, other parts of your heart are making this happen.

Although extra beats can be uncomfortable, they aren't usually serious. They will not damage or weaken your heart.

Symptoms of ectopic beats

These can vary. It's typical to feel like your heart is skipping or missing a beat or rolling over in your chest. You might also feel that your chest is tight or that you're briefly short of breath.

You can feel each extra beat for a second or so, but a series of beats may last for minutes or longer.

You generally feel these beats while resting, at the end of the day, after your evening meal or in bed at night. They're generally less noticeable when you're exercising but can happen after exercise.

It's normal to notice extra beats one day and not the next. You might have them for a few weeks or months, then they go away again.

Many people have extra beats without any symptoms at all.

Causes of ectopic beats

Several things can make extra beats worse, such as:

Self-care with ectopic beats

Avoid anything that makes it worse. If you smoke, stop smoking. Avoid, or cut back as much as possible any food or drink with caffeine in it.

If you drink alcohol, make sure you do not drink too much. Some people find any alcohol at all makes their extra beats worse – if this applies to you, avoid alcohol completely.

Even though asthma medicines can make extra beats worse, you shouldn't stop taking your asthma medicine unless your doctor advises you to do so. But many cold medicines, even those you buy over the counter, can make extra beats worse and you should avoid those.

Treating ectopic beats

Ectopic beats do not need to be treated with medication as they aren't serious and will stop by themselves.

Written by Cardiologist, Canterbury DHB. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed December 2021.


Page reference: 196532

Review key: HIHPL-25273