By Medicover Hospitals / 26 Feb 2021
An irregular heartbeat is when your heart beats too fast, too slow, or irregularly. This is also called an arrhythmia. Arrhythmias can occur when the electrical impulses that coordinate your heart rhythm don't travel normally. This causes the heart to beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm.
- What is An Irregular Heartbeat?
- When to visit a Doctor?
What is An Irregular Heartbeat?
An arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat. It means that your heart is out of its usual rhythm.
Your heart may seem to skip a beat, add a beat, or "pound." You may feel beating too fast (what doctors call tachycardia) or too slow (called bradycardia). Or you may notice nothing.
Arrhythmias can be an emergency, or they can be harmless. If you feel something unusual is happening with your heartbeat, seek medical help immediately so that doctors can find out why it is happening and what to do about it.
Types of Irregular Heartbeat:
This is the irregular heartbeat of the atrial chambers and almost always involves tachycardia. Atrial fibrillation (A-fib) is common and develops mainly in adults over 65 years of age.
Instead of producing a single strong contraction, the chamber fibrillates or shakes, often producing a rapid heartbeat.
While fibrillation causes many, random tremors in the atrium, atrial flutter usually comes from an area of the atrium that does not conduct properly. This produces a constant pattern in abnormal cardiac conduction.
A rapid but rhythmically normal heartbeat leads to the condition known as supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). A person may experience a burst of racing heartbeat that can last from a few seconds to a few hours.
This disorder corresponds to irregular electrical impulses that cause an abnormally rapid heartbeat originating in the ventricles. If the heart has a wound from a recent heart attack, this also occurs.
This is an irregular heart rhythm comprising fast, uncoordinated, fluttering contractions of the ventricles. The ventricles do not pump blood but tremble. Ventricular fibrillation can be life threatening and linked to heart disease. A heart attack often triggers it.
Long QT Syndrome:
This syndrome refers to a heart rhythm disorder that sometimes causes a rapid and uncoordinated heartbeat. This can lead to fainting, which can be life-threatening. It can also occur because of genetic susceptibility or from taking certain medications.
Any interruption of the electrical impulses that stimulate the heart's contractions can cause arrhythmia.
Several factors can cause the heart to malfunction, including:
A person in good heart health will almost never experience long-term arrhythmia unless they have an external trigger, such as a substance use disorder or an electric shock.
However, an underlying heart problem can mean that electrical impulses are not traveling properly through the heart. This increases the risk of arrhythmia.
- alcohol abuse
- substance use disorder
- drinking too much coffee
- heart disease, such as congestive heart failure
- high blood pressure
- hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid gland
- scarring of the heart, often because of a heart attack
- certain dietary and herbal supplements
- some medications
- structural changes in the heart
Your doctor will perform a physical exam, which will include using a stethoscope to listen to your heart. They may also use an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) to look at the electrical impulses in your heart. This will help them determine if your heart rhythm is abnormal and identify the cause.
Some methods for the detection of arrhythmia include:
- Echocardiography: This procedure also uses sound waves to capture photographs of the pulse, known as a cardiac echo.
- Holter monitor: Wear this monitor for at least 24 hours while doing your normal activities. It allows your doctor to track changes in your heart rate throughout the day.
- Stress test: For this test, your doctor will have you walk or jog on a treadmill to see how exercise affects your heart.
- Tilt table test (also called passive head-up tilt test or upright head tilt test): It records blood pressure and heart rate minute by minute while the table is tilted in a head position up at different levels. The test results can be used to assess your heart rate, blood pressure, and sometimes other measurements as you change your position.
Treatment of an arrhythmia depends on its cause. You may need to make lifestyle changes, such as increasing your activity level or changing your diet.
You may also need medicine to control abnormal heartbeats and any secondary symptoms.
For serious abnormalities that do not go away with behavior changes or medications, your doctor may recommend:
- cardiac catheterization to diagnose a heart problem
- catheter ablation to destroy the tissue, causing abnormal rhythms
- cardioversion with medications or an electric shock to the heart
- implantation of a pacemaker or automatic defibrillator
- surgery to correct an abnormality
When to visit a Doctor?
You should see a doctor if:
- Your symptoms persist or recur frequently
- You have diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, or a family history of heart disease
- You feel dizzy, have chest pain, or have trouble breathing
Arrhythmias cannot always be prevented. Regular checkups with your doctor can help you avoid further heart rhythm problems. Make sure they know all the medicines you are taking. Any medications for colds and coughs can induce arrhythmias, so speak to the doctor before taking them.
They may also recommend some lifestyle changes:
- Eat a healthy diet. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, fish, and plant-based protein. Avoid saturated and trans fats.
- Keep cholesterol and blood pressure under control
- Don't smoke
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Manage stress
- Limit alcohol and caffeine
Frequently Asked Questions:
Yeah, arrhythmias can often be mild, but they can cause serious health problems, such as strokes, heart valve disease, and death much of the time if left untreated.
Yes, most forms of arrhythmias can be cured and extensive medical surveys say that 80% of patients diagnosed with arrhythmias reported being cured after following the medication regimen.
It is best to consult a doctor to evaluate your condition and determine if the body is able to safely resist the effects of physical workouts.
It is recommended to stay away from all tobacco and tobacco-based products, as active and passive smoking have adverse ways of triggering the disease. Consulting a doctor is advised to discuss alcohol consumption.
It depends on the type of arrhythmia and the adversity condition. As long as the condition does not affect your driving and does not put you or others around you in danger, you will be allowed to drive.
Our heartbeats between 60 and 100 times per minute, which generates a normal heart rate that ranges between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
Certain arrhythmias increase your risk of heart attack, heart failure, cardiac arrest, and stroke.
Certain substances can contribute to an abnormal / irregular heartbeat, including:
- Cough and cold medicines
- Appetite suppressants
- Psychotropic drugs (used to treat certain mental illnesses)
- Antiarrhythmics (paradoxically, the same drugs used to treat arrhythmia can also cause arrhythmia. Your healthcare team will monitor you closely if you are taking antiarrhythmic drugs)
- Beta-blockers for high blood pressure
- Illegal drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and "speed" or methamphetamines
IEEE Xplore - https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/8036856
Knock - https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/STROKEAHA.117.017083