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Forum Name: Arrhythmias

Question: Low potassium level and PVC'S


 countrygirl - Mon Jul 09, 2007 1:57 pm

I have had pvc's for past 20 years and have progressed from infrequent attacks with months free to almost constantly in last 7 years. Their most frequent its every three beats, averages every five to seven beats. I have holter moniter every 2 years have been observed in hospital with them and had echo of heart and told completely harmless, heart function is normal.

I am 46yr old female - overweight but reducing slowly, normal blood pressure - underactive thyroid on medication and TSH within normal range.

These last few years the constant pvc's have been causing me much anxiety - I am a chronic worrier about anything health related so having pvc's is not good!!

I accept most of the time that after 20 years my wonky heartbeat is harmless but extremely unpleasant , it goes away when I get active and my heartrate increases and comes back when I am at rest and heartrate slows so its classic.

6 months ago i was taken to hospital for unrelated problem that turned out to be IBS but I had huge amount of blood tests that were all normal except one and that was my potassium level. I was told it was bordeline normal at the very bottom of normal range and to eat more bananas!! I asked it was of concern and they said not at all as its not low low just bottom of normal range.

According to John Kenyon in previous post low potassium levels can make pvc's much more frequent in someone prone to them - I have to say thank you reading that post was so reassuring that my pvc's were normal and not life threatening.

I am going to discuss this potassium question with my GP later this week and would be grateful if I could have a bit more information so I can print the answer out for my GP to see.

I am assuming from the information in the post I read that as I have frequent pvc's that my potassium level needs to be better than in the low range of normal ( I appreciate that the UK and USA use different measuring criteria so you may ot know what UK ones are).

I have tried everything over the years - no caffeine - no alcohol- taking magnesium and Q10 supplements with no effect so if the problem could be reduced by increasing my potassium levels I would be a seriously happy bunny!
 countrygirl - Fri Jul 13, 2007 5:22 am

I know there has been no replies to my question but I thought I would just place an update as I have been to see my Dr.
Here in the Uk the potassium connection with pvc's does not seem to be well known.
The Dr agreed that my potassium levels in past year ( there were 4 results) were all within normal range but lower than 4. Mostly 3.6-3.8. She said this would be due to having leaky kidneys which I have had all my life but I was still maintaining a potassium level within the normal range.
She advised me to eat more bananas, green leafy veg and fruit juices to see if this would increase my potassium levels to above 4.
She did not want to give me a potassium supplement as she said these could raise my levels too much and be dangerous whereas my slighly low level is not dangerous.
Thank you to the people who have read my post.
 John Kenyon, CNA - Fri Jul 20, 2007 11:11 pm

User avatar Hi there - Sorry to be so late in responding, but I have been out of town for about a month and missed this post.

There are several important points to make and/or emphasize where you have already mentioned them. First, PVCs are extremely common in the general population of otherwise healthy people. Some have lots, some have very few, but all of us have some at one time or another. Those with certain essentially benign conditions such as mitral valve prolapse syndrome (MVPS) have more as a rule. Some are aware of every premature beat. Others are always unaware of them or are not bothered by those they do feel. (I envy those people). And of course, PVCs provoke great anxiety in a lot of people; conversely anxiety can cause more PVCs as it causes the chronic release of adrenaline (a cardiac stimulant and irritant) into the blood stream. The most important thing to remember is that unless there is some significant disease of the left ventricle, PVCs are almost never of any consequence. The one big exception to this, of course, is a severe lack of potassium (K) in the body.

You have documented a low-normal postassium level on more than one occasion,and the kidneys are often blamed for this problem. (The numbers you cite would be considered acceptable were you not showing frequent PVCs and being bothered by them). When a patient presents with a lot of PVCs most doctors now like to see the level at 4.0 or above.

There is one other possible cause for unexplained postassium loss: celiac disease. This is an intestinal malabsorbtion problem caused by an autoimmune reaction in the GI tract, and usually is highlighted by some other symptoms as well, such as gassiness, bloating and vague GI discomfort. It is a reaction to gluten, which occurs in most wheat and a number of other foods. It can be detected by a specialized blood test that is not routinely ordered.

It is not unrealistic to seek relief from the palpitations caused by frequent PVCs if there is a conviction on the part of your doctor that low K is the likely cause of the problem. Up to 20 meq of slow-release potassium is often prescribed and many times this will reduce the frequency of PVCs to a more acceptable level without driving the K level up to dangerous levels (a single follow up K level should be done after about a week of therapy, during which time an improvement should be seen if low K is in fact the cause).

Hope all this is helpful. Please stay in touch.

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