Chest Pain Cause Cardiopulmonary Arrhythmia

Chest pain can be caused by a number of factors, including arrhythmia. Arrhythmia is a common condition that affects approximately 2 million Americans. While arrhythmias can occur in healthy individuals and may pose no serious health threats, the condition can also signal a serious health problem and can contribute to stroke or congestive heart failure.

To reduce your risk or serious injury or death, it is important to get the facts on arrhythmia.

A Normal Heartbeat

A healthy heart will beat 60 to 100 times per minute when at rest.

Arrhythmia Explained

An arrhythmia is an abnormal or irregular heartbeat. The heart beats irregularly when the electrical impulses that cause the heart to pump blood don’t function properly.

Often, people who have arrhythmias describe feeling a fluttering in their chests or feel as if their hearts are skipping a beat. However, some people who have arrhythmia are asymptomatic, or experience no symptoms.

Depending on the type of arrhythmia from which a person is suffering, he can experience a number of symptoms, including:

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

If you experience any of the above symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention.

Types of Arrhythmias

There are two main types of arrhythmias:

  • Bradycardia, in which the heart beats too slowly, is characterized by a heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute. Bradycardia is often seen in athletes who are very physically fit, however it is also seen in people with heart disease.
  • Tachycardia, in which the heart beats too quickly, is characterized by a heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute. Many people with tachycardia have heart disease. However, it is common and completely normal for people who are exercising to develop a fast heart rate.

Within these two categories, arrhythmias are further divided based on whether they originate in the atria (the upper chambers of the heart) or the ventricles (the lower pumping chambers of the heart).

Arrhythmia Causes

Some people are born with arrhythmias. Others, however, develop them later in life. Arrhythmias and heart palpitations can be caused by a number of factors, including:

  • anxiety
  • caffeine
  • diabetes
  • drug abuse
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • exercise
  • fever
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • hormonal changes
  • medications
  • nicotine
  • stress.

Often, doctors can’t pinpoint the exact cause of arrhythmias.

Arrhythmia Diagnosis and Treatment

If you suddenly experience any of the symptoms of arrhythmia during a time when you wouldn’t expect them to occur (such as when you are resting) or if you frequently experience the symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention.

To determine whether or not you have a cardiac arrhythmia, your doctor will review your medical history and will likely perform a series of heart monitoring tests, including:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): During this test, the doctor will place electrodes on your chest and limbs to measure the electrical activity of your heart.
  • Stress Test: During this test, you will be asked to walk on a treadmill or exercise on a stationary bike while your heart activity is monitored.

Additional tests may also be required to diagnose an arrhythmia.

If your doctor determines you have an arrhythmia, he may or may not prescribe treatment. In general, treatment is required only if the condition is causing significant symptoms or if it is putting you at risk for a serious complication, such as stroke or congestive heart failure.

If you have a bradycardia, you might need a pacemaker. Tachycardias can be treated with anti-arrhythmic medications and cardioversion, a procedure in which an electrical shock resets that heart’s rhythm.

Resources

American Heart Association, Inc. (2007). Arrhythmia. Retrieved November 8, 2007, from the American Heart Association Web site: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=10845.

Mayo Clinic Staff (February 16, 2007). Heart arrhythmias. Retrieved November 8, 2007, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-arrhythmias/DS00290/
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