The following describes the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of arrhythmia. For specific information regarding your health and treatment options, please contact your Hurley physician or medical professional.
Arrhythmia is a broad term used to describe various forms of irregular heartbeat
A normal heartbeat will change depending on a person’s level of activity or emotional state; for example, when walking or jogging, or when you are frightened or tense, your heart will typically beat faster. However, in arrhythmia, the change in heartbeat—faster, slower or more irregular—is often unrelated to external conditions and can occur unpredictably.
What are the three types of arrhythmia?
There are three primary forms of arrhythmia: atrial fibrillation (when the heart seems to beat or “flutter” uncontrollably); bradycardia (when the heartbeat slows to less than 60 beats per minute—this may not apply to endurance athletes whose normal resting heart rate can be lower than average); and tachycardia (when the heartbeat rises to more than 100 beats per minutes when one is not engaged in exercise).
What causes arrhythmia?
Arrhythmia may be caused by any number of underlying issues, or combination of issues, from emotional stress and easily corrected behaviors such as use of caffeine, tobacco or alcohol, to more serious conditions such as high blood pressure, lung disease, viral infections, abnormal heart valves, and congenital (from birth) heart defects. Arrhythmia may also be a sign of a heart attack. Ultimately, however, each of these problems or diseases affects the electrical impulses that, under normal conditions, cause the heart muscles to contract, or beat, in a regular rhythm.
How is arrhythmia diagnosed?
Since arrhythmia is typically a symptom of cardiovascular problems and not a disease in its own right, your Hurley cardiologist will focus on determining the underlying cause of your abnormal heartbeat. Your physician will likely conduct a number of tests, including echocardiograms, electrocardiograms (EKG or ECG), exercise stress tests, and cardiac catheterization, among others. You may also be asked to wear monitors that can track your heartbeat and blood pressure for up to 24 hours while you are at home.
How is arrhythmia treated?
Treatment for arrhythmia will depend upon the underlying condition that is causing your heart to beat irregularly, as well as the specific symptoms you are experiencing. For people with mild arrhythmia, treatment may involve lifestyle changes (such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising, and using relaxation and stress-reduction techniques, including meditation), as well as medication.
For patients with more serious conditions, the most effective treatment may involve surgery and other interventional procedures such as the insertion of pacemakers to create a regular heart beat, or ablation, which removes or destroys the source of the arrhythmia.
There are three primary forms of arrhythmia: (when the heart seems to beat or “flutter” uncontrollably); (when the heartbeat slows to less than 60 beats per minute—this may not apply to endurance athletes whose normal resting heart rate can be lower than average); and (when the heartbeat rises to more than 100 beats per minutes when one is not engaged in exercise).