What is an arrhythmia?
An arrhythmia is a change in the rhythm of your heartbeat. When the heart beats too fast, it's called tachycardia.
When it beats too slow, it's called bradycardia. An arrhythmia can also mean that your heart beats irregularly
(skips a beat or has an extra beat). At some time or another, most people have felt their heart race or skip a beat.
These occasional changes can be brought on by strong emotions or exercise. They usually are not a cause for alarm.
Arrhythmias that occur more often or cause symptoms (see the box below) may be more serious and need to be
discussed with your doctor.
What are the symptoms of arrhythmia?
Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms, especially if you have heart disease or have had a heart attack.
What causes an arrhythmia?
The heart has 4 chambers. The walls of the heart contract to push blood through the chambers. The contractions are
controlled by an electrical signal that begins in the heart's natural "pacemaker" (called the sinoatrial node). The
rate of the contractions is influenced by nerve impulses and hormones in the blood. A problem in any of these can
cause an arrhythmia.
Minor arrhythmias may be caused by excessive alcohol use, smoking, caffeine, stress or exercise. The most common
cause of arrhythmias is heart disease, particularly coronary artery disease, abnormal heart valve function and heart
failure. However, arrhythmias can occur for no known reason.
Is an arrhythmia serious?
In most people, arrhythmias are minor and are not dangerous. A small number of people, however, have arrhythmias
that are dangerous and require treatment. Arrhythmias are also more serious if you have other heart problems. In
general, arrhythmias that start in the lower chambers of the heart (called the ventricles) are more serious than
those that start in the upper chambers (called the atria). Your doctor will talk with you about the type of arrhythmia
you have and whether you need treatment.
How do I know if I have an arrhythmia?
Your doctor will ask if you have any of the symptoms listed in the box on page 1. Your doctor may also do some tests.
One of these tests is an electrocardiogram, also called ECG or EKG. During this test, your doctor will have you lie
down so your heart can be monitored.
Your doctor may also ask you to walk on a treadmill while he or she monitors your heart, or may want to monitor
your heart while you do your daily activities. One way to do this is for you to wear a Holter monitor for 24 hours. If
your doctor wants to monitor your heart for more than 24 hours, he or she might recommend an event-recorder,
which you wear for a couple of days or longer. Other tests, called electrophysiologic studies, may also give your
doctor information about your heart.
|What are some of
the types of arrhythmias?
What's the treatment?
Treatment depends on the type of arrhythmia you have. Some mild arrhythmias require no treatment. Other
arrhythmias can be treated with medicines. If another health problem is causing the arrhythmia, treatment is aimed
at taking care of that problem. In more serious cases, other treatments are available:
An artificial pacemaker. An electronic device placed under the skin on the chest. It helps the heart maintain
a regular beat, especially when the heart beats too slowly.
Cardiac defibrillation (very brief electric shock). Can be used to stop an abnormal rhythm and restore a
Surgery. Can correct certain types of arrhythmias. For example, arrhythmias caused by coronary artery
disease may be controlled by bypass surgery. When an arrhythmia is caused by a certain area of the heart,
sometimes that part of the heart can be destroyed or removed.
To prevent potential problems with heart
arrhythmia, experts recommend aiming for the Daily Values of these two
NUTRIENTS, DAILY AMOUNTS, AND APPLICATIONS
Disclaimer: This information is intended as a guide only. This information is offered to you with the understanding that it not be interpreted as medical or professional advice. All medical information needs to be carefully reviewed with your health care provider.
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