Palpitations--Don't Panic

Abstracted from "Extra Heart Beats: Usually Benign...But Not Always" by the editors of Harvard Heart Letter 
Harvard Heart Letter, March 2001. 

Palpitations are among the most common reasons that a person will seek the help of a cardiologist. A wide range of conditions and circumstances can cause palpitations. The question is, should individuals worry if they experience palpitations caused by premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) during or after exercise? In the overwhelming majority of the population, palpitations during or after exercise are a normal result of the increased demand on the heart during physical exertion. A study recently published in the "New England Journal of Medicine" found that while men who experienced PVCs during exercise were more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than were men who did not experience PVCs during exercise, PVCs after exercise were not associated with increased cardiovascular death. 

Even for middle-aged men with exercise-induced PVCs, these data shouldn't cause panic. The authors of the study recommended only that such patients pay close attention to their overall cardiovascular risk and seek to lower it. Nor do the results of this research mean that these patients should take medications simply to reduce PVCs. We don't yet understand cardiac-rhythm disturbances well enough, and these drugs carry a very real risk that the strategy could backfire and trigger more lethal arrhythmias.