Concern Types of Arrhythmias
The upper and lower chambers in your heart usually beat in a specific synchronized order. When the chambers do not beat properly or when your heart rate is not normal, most of the time an arrhythmia is to blame. There are several arrhythmias that are concerned like atrial and ventricular fibrillation and tachycardia and bradycardia. Each of these arrhythmias present with similar symptoms and treatments vary depending on the type of arrhythmia that's diagnosed.
Atrial fibrillation is the most prevalent heart rhythm disorder in patients over 65, but can occur at any age. This arrhythmia occurs when the upper chambers of the heart do not beat properly, like a mild shuddering rather than a strong beat, resulting in poor blood flow in to the ventricles below. The slow movement of blood creates an increased risk for blood clots and clot related illnesses.
This type of arrhythmia is very serious, often leading to cardiac arrest. When the heart's lower chambers, or ventricles, do not beat rigidly, but instead quiver like in atrial fibrillation, the result can be deadly.
Tachycardia and Bradycardia
Tachycardia occurs when the heart beats more than 100 times in a minute. Tachycardia is more likely to occur if you are very stressed, very tired, drink too much coffee or alcohol, and smoke excessively. Bradycardia occurs when the heart beats less than 60 times in a minute. Fit people may have a resting heart rate below 60 beats per minute; often during deep sleep your heart rate can drop this low.
Symptoms of Arrhythmias
If you've ever felt like your heart skipped a beat or have a fluttering in your chest, you may have an arrhythmia. Some abnormal heart rhythms are merely a nuisance and do not require treatment, where some are quite serious. When an arrhythmia persists, more prevalent symptoms develop including:
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Feeling false or passing out
- Pounding heart
- Trouble breathing
- Pain in the chest
- In serious cases, cardiac arrest
Any of these symptoms that concern you or persist over a long period of time warrant a doctor visit.
When your doctor is concerned that you may have an arrhythmia, there are several types of tests that show the heart's rhythm and whether or not it's abnormal. The most common test is an electrocardiogram (EEG). In many cases, patients wear a holter monitor, or a mobile, continuous EEG, for a set amount of time that records the heart's beats for the doctor to examine and make an accurate diagnosis.
There are tests that help your doctor determine if you have an arrhythmia and what type it is. These tests may include:
- Transtelephonic monitor that records only major events
- Stress test
- Tilt test
- Transthoracic echocardiography
Each of these procedures will help your doctor make the right diagnosis.
If you do have an abnormal heart beat that needs treatment, there are many options. Treating these disorders correctly helps prevent blood clots and clot related issues, keeps the heart rate at a normal state, and reduces risk for heart attacks and strokes. Some arrhythmias can be corrected by restoring the heart's normal rhythm.
There are several medications that treat abnormal heart rhythms like anti-arrhythmics, calcium and beta-blockers to help regulate heart beat, and anticoagulants to prevent clots. Your doctor will decide which you need, but keep in mind, it may take some time to find the right medication for you.
Ablation is a procedure that helps treat atrial fibrillation, tachycardia, and fluttering. A doctor guides a small electrode through a catheter to the area of the heart that is causing the irregularity and emits radiofrequency energy to kill that particular area.
The shocking you typically see on TV is defibrillation. This course of treatment helps to bring the heart's contractions back to a normal pace. This procedure is most commonly used during cardiac arrest, but is also used to treat dangerous arrhythmic situations.
When arrhythmias recur, your doctor may opt for continuous treatment via a pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). These devices deliver electrical pulses to the heart to regulate your heart beat or restore it back to normal when an arrhythmia occurs.
Again, most irregular heartbeats are not cause for concern, but in some cases can cause serious health issues. If you feel like you may have an arrhythmia, contact your doctor right away.