Arrhythmia of The Heart
Arrhythmia of the heart refers to an irregular heartbeat that is either too fast, too slow or changing frequently. Although that may sound scary, it can be completely normal to feel your heart flutter or rapidly beat.
Technically, our hearts change speed depending on what we are doing. For example, cardio exercises pump more blood to our hearts — making them race. This also occurs when people are feeling nervous or anxious. A slower heartbeat can occur when we sleep. All of these are common reasons for a heart to beat irregularly. However, it becomes a problem when it occurs without any explanation.
Types of Arrhythmias
There are two major speeds when it comes to heart arrhythmias: tachycardia and bradycardia. People who have tachycardia have a rapid heartbeat of more than 100 beats per minute. People with bradycardia have a resting heartbeat of fewer than 60 beats per minute. There are various types within both of these categories:
Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib): Patients with a-fib have a chaotic heartbeat that constantly speeds up and slows down without an exact pattern. This type is caused by electronic signals misfiring and the communication between the heart and the nerves not working.
Sometimes, this condition is temporary and only happens once or twice in someone’s life. However, if it does not stop, then treatment is necessary as it can cause complications.
Ventricular Fibrillation: This condition is severe and occurs when a misfiring of the nerve cells tells the lower chambers of the heart to quiver. This sends the heart beating quickly and can lead to deafness if a proper heartbeat is not established.
Patients with ventricular fibrillation have an underlying condition or have suffered trauma in their hearts. Some underlying conditions include various heart diseases.
Sick Sinus Syndrome: Sick sinus syndrome is prevalent in older adults. The sinus node, the part of the heart in charge of establishing a consistent heartbeat, is damaged or ‘sick.’ It sends out signals to beat slowly, at less than 60 beats a minute.
This typically is caused by trauma or scarring to the node. However, it is rare and not something everyone should be concerned about.
Conduction Block: One of the more common reasons for a heartbeat slowing down is a conduction block. There is not a lot of understanding as to why this happens. People with a conduction block suffer because something is blocking their heart’s electrical pathway, which results in a slower heartbeat.
Interestingly, not all blocks slow down the heart or cause any symptoms. It either goes away on its own or develops and needs further treatment from a medical professional.
Causes of an Arrhythmia
There are various causes that can lead to arrhythmia. Some of them are preventable and avoidable, while others are genetic. Some of the most common causes include:
- High blood pressure
- Blocked arteries
- Consuming too much caffeine
- Drug abuse
- Sleep apnea
Symptoms of an Arrhythmia
Everyone reacts differently to arrhythmia of the heart. The symptoms vary depending on the exact cause. Although this is the case, there are a few common symptoms which include:
- Heat racing
- Heart flutters
- Heart skipping a beat
- Thudding in chest
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
If any of these arrhythmia symptoms get severe, go seek medical attention as it could be a sign of a worse condition.
Diagnosis of an Arrhythmia
The only way to diagnose and figure out the exact cause of heart arrhythmia is to consult a doctor. They will begin by giving you a physical exam and asking about your medical history and symptoms.
Based on the symptoms, they will order tests like an electrocardiogram (EKG). During this test, your doctor will place sensors, known as electrodes, on your body to discern and measure the electrical pulses in your heart. This can show your doctor if there is an abnormality and what kind it is.
An event recorder may also be recommended, depending on your symptoms. If your heartbeats are frequently irregular and change in speed, the event recorder will be attached to you and collect data on your arrhythmias.
How to Treat an Arrhythmia
When treating arrhythmias, the exact medication and procedure depend on the underlying cause. For instance, your doctor may prescribe you blood-thinning medication to ensure that the blood doesn’t clot.
Typically, not everyone needs medication. There are also some therapies and preventative techniques that doctors recommend. One therapy is cardioversion, which uses shocks to reset your heartbeat to a normal range. Not everyone qualifies for this therapy and it does come with risks.
How to Manage an Arrhythmia
Since some of the causes are prevalent in daily life, we can prevent arrhythmia by lowering the risk. For instance, if you are prone to a fluttering heart because you drink too much caffeine or are stressed, you may need to cut down on the caffeine and find stress relievers.
You can also make some lifestyle changes that lower your risk. Since high blood pressure and cholesterol are a cause, you can change your diet to lower your blood pressure. Instead of eating a diet filled with red meat, you can switch to a pescatarian diet. Fish has plenty of natural fatty acids that also boost your immune system and the health of your heart.
Conclusions on Arrhythmias
In conclusion, as scary as an arrhythmia of the heart may be, it typically is not something to fear or life-threatening. However, if you notice any changes to your heartbeat on a regular and consistent basis, you should go to your doctor to double-check that there isn’t an underlying cause.
- Will arrhythmia affect my daily life? Yes, arrhythmia will cause you to feel fatigued, have chest pain, and have shortness of breath. Most likely it will also cause you to feel a vast amount of stress related to other possible health issues.
- Is arrhythmia genetic? Yes, arrhythmia is related to first-degree family members and is inherited through a dormant matter. Arrhythmia can now to tested through genetics and the mutation can be identified.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment. Always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!