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PACs are an irregular rhythm of heartbeat

DEAR DR. GOTT: I recently went to my doctor for a checkup. When he listened to my chest, he mentioned I had PACs. What is this all about, and is there something I should be concerned about?

DEAR READER: PACs stand for “premature atrial contractions,” an irregular rhythm of the heartbeat. As a general rule, PACs are harmless and occur in many people at some stage. The condition may go undetected and not cause any symptoms at all. When symptoms do occur, they may feel like a flutter or skipped heartbeat.

Your premature beats may not relate to any form of heart disease but may result from anemia, excessive caffeine, nicotine or physical exercise.

If you are generally healthy, it is likely no treatment will even be required. If you have heart disease, treatment may be necessary. While you don’t mention your age, a baseline electrocardiogram (EKG) is often a good reference point to have on file. The safest initial step, therefore, is to have an EKG performed. If your physician remains suspicious and deems it appropriate, he or she can follow up with more sophisticated testing to rule out any possible coronary problems.

Readers who would like related information can order my Health Report “Coronary Artery Disease” by sending a self-addressed, stamped No. 10 envelope and a $2 U.S. check or money order to Dr. Peter Gott, P.O. Box 433, Lakeville, CT 06039. Be sure to mention the title, or print an order form from my website’s direct link: order_form.pdf.