Heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias) occur when the electrical impulses that coordinate the heartbeat do not work properly, so the heart beats either too fast, too slowly, or irregularly.
Cardiac arrhythmias can often feel like an acceleration of the heartbeat and can be harmless. However, some arrhythmias can cause annoying symptoms, which can sometimes be life-threatening.
Symptoms of arrhythmias
Arrhythmias may not cause symptoms. In fact, your doctor may detect an arrhythmia before you during a routine examination. However, one of the symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have a serious problem.
Symptoms of arrhythmias include:
- A feeling of trembling in the chest area
- Acceleration of the heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Slowing of the heartbeat (bradycardia)
- Angina pectoris
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Fainting or almost fainting
When to go to the doctor
Because of the arrhythmias you may feel premature or too much heartbeat, or you may feel your heart beating too hard or too slowly. Additional symptoms are attributed to inefficient blood circulation because of rapid or sluggish pulse. These include dyspnea, weakness, dizziness, dizziness, fainting or near fainting, chest pain or discomfort.
Ventricular fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia that can be fatal. This occurs when the heart beats with fast and chaotic electrical impulses. Because of this, the pumping chambers in the heart (ventricles) "shake" unnecessarily without pumping blood. Without effective pumping, blood pressure drops sharply, disrupting the blood supply to vital organs.
Normal heart rate
Arrhythmia may occur due to a number of underlying reasons:
- A heart attack is about to occur
- An injury to the heart tissue caused by a previous heart attack
- Changes in the structure of the heart, for example due to cardiomyopathy
- Blocked arteries (coronary heart disease)
- Hyperactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism)
- Sub active thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
- Excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption
- Substance abuse
- Certain medicines and supplements, including medicines for colds and allergies without a prescription, but also food supplements
- Sleep apnea
- Genetic factors
Types of arrhythmia
The typical heart rate, at rest, is between 60 to 100 beats per minute.
Doctors classify arrhythmias according to their heart rate as follows:
- Tachycardia - This means a heart rate of over 100 beats per minute.
- Bradycardia - This means a low heart rate - a resting heart rate below 60 beats per minute.
Not all tachycardia or bradycardia means you have a heart disease. For example, during exercise, it is normal for the heart rate to accelerate, as the heart pumps more oxygen-rich blood to the tissues. During sleep or in moments of deep relaxation, it is not uncommon for the pulse to slow down.
Although it often feels like a break between beats, a premature heartbeat is actually an extra beat. Even if you occasionally feel a premature beating, it only very rarely designates a more serious problem.
Premature beats are most often caused by stress, strenuous exercise or the consumption of stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine.
There are certain factors that can increase the risk of developing an arrhythmia. These include:
- Coronary heart disease, other heart problems and previous heart surgery. Narrow arteries of the heart, a heart attack, and abnormalities of the heart valves, previous heart surgery, cardiomyopathy and other heart injuries are risk factors for almost all types of arrhythmia.
- An elevated blood pressure. The left ventricle becomes thicker and stiffer, which affects the way electrical impulses are delivered via the heart.
- Congenital heart disease. An innate heart abnormality can affect heart rate.
- Thyroid problems. An overactive or subactive thyroid gland may increase the risk of arrhythmias.
- Consumption of drugs and supplements. Certain over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, as well as certain over-the-counter medications, can contribute to arrhythmias.
- The risk of developing coronary heart disease and high blood pressure increases considerably due to inadequate control of diabetes.
- Obstructive sleep apnea. This condition, in which breathing is interrupted during sleep, may increase the risk of bradycardia, atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias.
- Electrolyte imbalance. Substances in the blood, called electrolytes - such as potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium - help to trigger and conduct electrical impulses in the heart. Too high or too low levels of electrolytes can affect the electrical impulses of the heart and can contribute to arrhythmias.
- Excessive alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol consumption can affect the electrical impulses in the heart and may increase the risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
- Caffeine or nicotine consumption. Consumption of caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants can speed up the heartbeat and contribute to more severe arrhythmias. Drugs, such as amphetamines and cocaine, can deeply affect the heart and can lead to many types of arrhythmias or sudden death due to ventricular fibrillation.
Complications of arrhythmias
Premature death, myocardial infarction, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease:
- Stroke. When the heart "trembles", it cannot pump blood efficiently, so blood accumulates, which can lead to blood clots. If a clot comes off, it can move from the heart to the brain, where it can block blood flow, causing a stroke. Certain medications, such as anticoagulants, can reduce the risk of stroke or damage to other organs due to blood clots. Your doctor will determine if anticoagulant medication is required, depending on the type of arrhythmia you are suffering from and the risk of clots.
- Heart failure. Heart failure occurs if the heart pumps inefficiently over an extended period of time due to bradycardia or tachycardia, such as atrial fibrillation. Sometimes controlling the rhythm in an arrhythmia that causes heart failure can improve heart function.
The article has a purely informative role and does not replace the specialized medical consultation. Imaging investigations are performed only on the recommendation of a specialist.
Learn more about heart blockage treatment without surgery.