Arrhythmia is characterized by abnormal heart rhythms. The condition can be caused by factors like coronary artery disease, irregular heart rhythms, injury from a heart attack, electrolyte imbalance in the blood, or due to changes in heart muscles.
Besides, heart block leading to slow heartbeat arrhythmias can be caused by diabetes, cigarette smoking, drug or alcohol abuse, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, excess weight, congenital heart disorders, genetic predisposition, stress, sedentary lifestyle, high fat diet, increasing age, etc. It has been observed that males are more susceptible to this problem than females.
Basically, the heart pumps blood to all parts of the body and this pumping is controlled by the heart’s electrical system. Thus, changes in this electrical conducting system give rise to arrhythmias. Therefore, the heart may have extremely slow, rapid, or irregular heart rhythms.
The normal heart rate in healthy people is about 60 to 100 beats per minute. Heart rate slower than 60 is referred to as bradycardia. When it is faster than 100, it is called tachycardia.
Arrhythmia can be of different types:
• Atrial Fibrillation– This is the most common type of serious arrhythmia caused by damage to the heart’s electrical system due to issues like coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, rheumatic heart disease, overactive thyroid gland, advanced age, and heavy alcohol intake.
It can be dangerous but not life-threatening. However, it may give rise to complications like stroke and heart failure. Watch the following video to understand more about Atrial Fibrillation.
• Premature Atrial Contractions– Premature beats in the heart’s upper chambers
• Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVC)– Premature beats in the heart’s lower chambers. Both types of premature beats tend to be harmless and feel like fluttering in the chest or a skipped heartbeat. Excessive exercise, stress, and intake of caffeine or nicotine may contribute in causing this problem.
• Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia (PSVT)– Rapid heart rate, mostly with a regular heart rhythm; tends to occur in young people, especially during strenuous physical activity
• Accessory Pathway Tachycardia
• AV Nodal Reentrant Tachycardia
• Atrial Flutter– Its symptoms are similar to that of Atrial Fibrillation but it is characterized by fast and regular heart rhythms.
• Ventricular Tachycardia (V-tach)– It can be a serious form of arrhythmia, particularly for individuals suffering from heart disease.
• Ventricular Fibrillation– This is a medical emergency that should be treated as soon as possible with CPR and defibrillation.
• Bradyarrhythmias– Slower heart rhythms
• Long QT Syndrome– It is an inherited condition that may even cause sudden death in younger individuals.
• Sick Sinus Syndrome
• Heart Block
Ventricular fibrillation, in particular, is characterized by heart beats with abnormally rapid, erratic electrical impulses and uncoordinated rhythms.
It is a complication of a number of heart disorders, often after a massive heart attack. Hence, it can prove to be fatal if not treated within a few minutes.
Bradyarrhythmia, on the other hand, refers to a condition with abnormally slow heart rate. The condition may or may not produce any symptoms. It may be caused by sinus node syndrome or atrioventricular (AV) block.
Factors like hyothyroidism, cardiac disease, hypothermia, hypoglycemia, sleep apnea, and electrolyte imbalance may increase the chances of developing this condition.
Moreover, advancing age, intake of certain medications like beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, appetite suppressants, etc. and infectious diseases such as Rheumatic Fever, Diphtheria, Lyme Disease, Viral myocarditis, and so on may also contribute in causing this problem.
Bradycardia may also be associated with improved fitness if the heart beats slowly yet pumps enough blood to meet the body’s needs.
Some of the most common symptoms of arrhythmia, particularly racing, irregular heartbeat (Atrial Fibrillation) are:
- • Persistent heart palpitations
- • Chest pain and discomfort
- • Lightheadedness, dizziness
- • Fatigue
- • Anxiety
- • Irregular pulse
- • Shortness of breath
- • Fainting (Syncope ) or near fainting (Presyncope)
When dealing with bradycardia, you may also experience weakness, low blood pressure, and a sensation of heart fluttering (can be felt in the chest or neck). If the condition is serious, though, it may lead to loss of consciousness (syncope) or even sudden cardiac arrest.
The above-mentioned symptoms, however, do not always indicate the presence of a serious problem. On the contrary, at times, people tend to have life-threatening arrhythmias but without any noticeable symptoms at all.
Arrhythmia can be medically diagnosed through Electrocardiogram, Echocardiogram, Electrophysiology study (EPS), Holter Monitor, Event Monitor, Cardiac Catheterization, Head-up Tilt Table Test, and Stress Test. Effective treatment for arrhythmia can be determined on the basis of the type and severity of the problem.
In certain cases, treatment may not be required whereas in others it can be managed with the help of certain medications and modifications in the lifestyle. Surgical intervention may also be required in some cases.
In general, it is suggested to pay attention to your health and lifestyle to prevent heart disease. Hence, take a balanced, low-fat diet, maintain healthy weight, avoid smoking, adopt an exercise regime that suits your body, and control problems associated blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes.
Occasional palpitations during physical or emotional stress are usually normal. However, do not neglect heart palpitations accompanied by signs and symptoms like unusual sweating, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, or rapid heartbeat of more than 140 to 160 beats per minute lasting for more than 20 to 30 seconds.
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