What Is A Heart Arrhythmia?
Heart rhythm problems (heart arrhythmias) occur when the electrical impulses
in your heart that coordinate your heartbeats do not work properly, causing
your heart to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly.
Heart arrhythmias may feel like a fluttering or racing heart, and they're
often harmless. However, some heart arrhythmias may cause bothersome -
sometimes even life-threatening - signs and symptoms.
Types of Arrhythmias
Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib)
Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that commonly
causes poor blood flow to the body. During atrial fibrillation, the heart's
two upper chambers (the atria) beat chaotically and irregularly - out
of coordination with the two lower chambers (the ventricles) of the heart.
Tachycardia (Fast Heart Rhythms)
Tachycardia is a very fast heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute.
The many forms of tachycardia depend on where the fast heart rate begins.
If it begins in the ventricles, it is called ventricular tachycardia.
If it begins above the ventricles, it is called supraventricular tachycardia.
Types of supraventricular arrhythmias include atrial fibrillation (AF),
atrial flutter, paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT), and Wolff-Parkinson-White
Bradyarrhythmias (Slow Heart Rhythms)
Bradycardia is a very slow heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute.
It happens when the electrical impulse that signals the heart to contract
is not formed in your heart's natural pacemaker, the sinoatrial node
(SA node), or is not sent to the heart's lower chambers (the ventricles)
through the proper channels.
Premature contractions are the most common type of arrhythmia and they
typically do not cause any symptoms. When there are symptoms, they can
feel like fluttering in the chest. Premature beats most often occur naturally
and are not due to heart disease; however certain heart diseases can cause
Arrhythmias may not have any signs or symptoms. Your doctor might find
you have an arrhythmia before you do, during a routine examination. Noticeable
arrhythmia symptoms may include:
- Fluttering in your chest
- Racing heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Slow heartbeat (bradycardia)
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Causes and Risk Factors
Many things can lead to, or cause, an arrhythmia, including:
- Scarring of heart tissue
Changes of heart structure, such as
coronary artery disease
- High blood pressure
- Overactive thyroid gland
- Drinking to much caffeine or alcohol
- Drug use
- Dietary supplements
- Electric shock
- Air pollution
To diagnose a heart arrhythmia, your doctor may ask about - or test for
- conditions that may trigger your arrhythmia, such as heart disease or
a problem with your thyroid gland. Your doctor may also perform heart-monitoring
tests specific to arrhythmias. These may include:
If you have an arrhythmia, treatment may or may not be necessary. Usually
it's required only if the arrhythmia is causing significant symptoms
or if it's putting you at risk of a more serious arrhythmia or arrhythmia
complication. Treatments may include:
Saving Lives through Cardiac Research
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