Arrhythmia Cardiac

A resting heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. During each beat, the atria contract together, followed by the ventricles, thus pumping blood throughout the entire body.

If a person has an arrhythmia, the heart does one of three different things: beats too quickly (tachycardia), beats too slowly (bradycardia), or beats irregularly (the atria may be beating quicker than the ventricles — atrial fibrillation).

In all of these cases, irreparable damage may be inflicted on the heart as a result of the arrhythmia. Without proper treatment, an arrhythmia may lead to serious life-threatening conditions, such as stroke or heart failure.

What Causes an Arrhythmia?

A number of things can lead to an arrhythmia. Some people are born with an arrhythmia while others acquired an arrhythmia as a result of another disease (such as high blood pressure or heart disease). Even things such as caffeine, alcohol, and cold medications may result in arrhythmias.

What are the Symptoms of Arrhythmia?

Depending on the type of arrhythmia, a person may experience a variety of symptoms, including:

  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • a fluttering/racing heartbeat
  • chest discomfort
  • heart palpitations.

Some Types of Arrhythmias

  • Tachycardias are fast heart rates. A heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute is classified as a tachycardia.
  • Bradycardias are slow heart rates. A heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute is classified as a bradycardia.
  • Irregular heartbeats include atrial fibrillation and ventricular fibrillation. Irregular heartbeats are often very dangerous and require treatment.

Is the Whole Heart Affected?

An arrhythmia may not affect the entire heart, but any part of the heart—right and left atria, right and left ventricles—is susceptible. In general, arrhythmias affecting the ventricles is much more serious than arrhythmias affecting the atria.

Diagnosing and Treating Arrhythmias

Medical professionals use a variety of devices and techniques to diagnose arrhythmia. An electrocardiogram (EKG) is most frequently used to monitor the heart rate, but other tests, such as electrophysiology studies and tilt-table tests are also employed to diagnose arrhythmias.

Treatment for arrhythmias also varies depending on the type of arrhythmia diagnosed. Sometimes, all it takes is a change in lifestyles, while others may require medication. If none of those treatment options are effective, a pacemaker may be surgically implanted to keep the heart beating at a normal rate.