Your heart is a vital organ, responsible for pumping blood to all parts of your body to provide your body with the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function.
The heart's electrical system controls your heartbeat, but sometimes it may not work as effectively. These changes in the electrical system can cause irregular heart rhythms called 'arrhythmias.' There can be numerous reasons that cause changes in your heart's rhythm. We put together this guide to explore some of the top reasons.
While not all arrhythmias are life-threatening, you should always consult with your doctor if you experience an irregular heartbeat or other symptoms mentioned below.
What is a heart arrhythmia?
An arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, occurs when the heart beats too fast, too slow, or has an abnormal rhythm.
Tachycardia- when the heart beats faster than the natural rhythm of 60 to 100 beats per minute
Bradycardia- when the heart beats slower than the natural rhythm
What are the symptoms of an irregular heartbeat?
Though some people with heart arrhythmias never experience any symptoms, common symptoms include:
Fluttering in the chest
Feeling dizziness or faint
Pounding in the chest
Shortness of breath
Reasons behind an irregular heartbeat
Heart rate and rhythm changes are typical during sleep, physical activity, and moments of stress. However, other times arrhythmia can be a severe problem.
A congenital disease is a condition present from birth and can be caused by genetics or environmental factors. Certain congenital conditions can increase a person's risk of having a heart arrhythmia.
A person born with a heart defect that affects the electrical system can experience a slower heart rate. On the other hand, people born with extra electrical pathways can be prone to a faster heart rate.
Coronary artery and heart disease
The arteries are roadways for oxygen and nutrients to travel through the body. When fat, cholesterol, and calcium build plaques in the arteries, the blood can't flow like it should, causing pressure on the heart. This clogging is referred to as coronary artery disease.
Coronary artery disease and other types of heart disease, like high blood pressure, can lead to Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), a kind of arrhythmia.
Smoking and/or alcohol consumption
Smoking can lead to damages in just about every single part of the body, including the heart. According to the American Heart Association, cigarettes contain around 4,000 chemical ingredients, with at least 250 of these being harmful to the body. For example, nicotine found in cigarettes can cause your heart rate and blood pressure to soar.
Heavy alcohol use can also have severe adverse effects on the body. Research shows that even moderate consumption (one to three drinks a day) can increase the risk of developing AFib. Even if you only drink on special occasions, holiday heart syndrome can cause an irregular heartbeat due to excess drinking at one time (known as binge drinking).
Different kinds of chemical agents can cause irregular heartbeats, sometimes with serious outcomes.
Certain minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium, play an essential role in normal heart functions. However, arrhythmias can occur when there is an imbalance, and these mineral levels are either too high or too low.
Treatment options for irregular heartbeat
Treatment options for arrhythmias depend on the severity and type of condition. Sometimes irregular heartbeats don't need treatment, but other times medical intervention is necessary.
Treatment options include:
As we stated above, there are times when an irregular heartbeat isn't concerning. However, when left untreated, arrhythmias can have serious outcomes, including cardiac arrest and stroke.
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