are conditions which disrupt the normal electrical impulses of the heart, causing irregular heartbeats. There are different types of arrhythmias, as well as conditions that may mimic them. Some arrhythmias are harmless, simply causing mild delays in heartbeats, while others can be deadly if left untreated.
While some people with arrhythmias display few-to-no symptoms, others may experience:
- A slow or chronically elevated heartrate
- Little pauses between beats
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
(NHLBI), more serious symptoms of arrhythmias include:
- shortness of breath
- syncope (fainting)
- extreme weakness or fatigue
- chest pain
- shortness or breath or acute
- sudden bouts of unexplained anxiety or fear
Premature Ventricular Contractions
Premature Ventricular Contractions
(PVCs) are extra heartbeats which disrupt the heart’s normal rhythm. They cause sensations of palpitations (a flip-flop feeling caused by skipped beats). Generally speaking, PVCs are as harmless as they are common. Most people will experience the occasional PVC or palpitation at some point in their lives. However, if PVCs or palpitations occur frequently over a prolonged period of time, they could be a sign of underlying conditions such as an anxiety problem, an arrhythmia or other underlying heart condition.
Types of Arrhythmias
According to the American Heart Association
some of the main types of arrhythmic conditions are:
- Atrial Fibrillation – is a type of chronically irregular heartbeat that can lead to heart complications such as stroke or heart attack if left unchecked. An estimated 2.7 million Americans have AF.
- Bradycardia – is a low resting heartrate of under 60 BPM. It can be harmless depending on factors such as physical fitness (athletes commonly have a slow resting heartrate, but this is due to strong heart muscles), but because the brain may get less oxygen this arrhythmia can be dangerous.
- Tachycardia – (part of the Supraventricular family of arrhythmias) is a chronically elevated heartrate of generally around or over 100 BPM and is the opposite of Bradycardia. There are different types of tachycardia ranging from relatively harmless to life threatening.
- Ventricle Fibrillation – unorganized heartbeat associated with the lower chambers of the heart
Detection and Diagnosis
There are several tests
that can be conducted by your doctor or a cardiologist if an arrhythmia is suspected. One of these tests is a standard (EKG) which shows your heartrate and rhythm. Unfortunately, arrhythmias can be fleeting and may be difficult to detect during a 12 second EKG. In such cases a Holter monitor may be ordered (a portable EKG machine you wear for 24-48 hours that takes continuous ‘snapshots’ of your heartrate as you do different activities). These monitors are better at catching an arrhythmia than a one-off EKG. If your doctor suspects your arrhythmia is worsened by exercise, he or she may order a stress/exercise test to see if you have any other type of heart condition.
Prevention and Treatment
Many arrhythmias are considered non-threatening enough that no treatment may be prescribed, but it is still important to get them diagnosed so the specialist can tell if your arrhythmia is serious, requires medication, or needs to be monitored for potential complications. There are things you can do that may lower your risk of developing an arrhythmia such as:
- exercising regularly
- avoiding smoking or too much alcohol
- controlling BP and cholesterol
- lose any extra weight
- partaking in a heart-healthy diet.
If you are experiencing symptoms that could be related to an arrhythmia or even harmless PVCs, you should talk to your doctor (or one of ours!) soon to rule out anything problematic.
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