Healthy hearts beat at a steady pace. However, there are many things that can interrupt this rhythm. An arrhythmia is a condition in which your heart beats irregularly.
Some arrhythmias can have a mild effect on your health while others can cause serious complications. A proper diagnosis is the first step to managing an arrhythmia. This is often done by checking your heart’s electrical activity.
Once you have confirmed your arrhythmia, a treatment plan can then be developed that may include medication, implantable cardiac devices and lifestyle modifications.
What is arrhythmia?
Arrhythmias can lead to your heart beating too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia), and with an irregular rhythm (“fibrillation”).
Tachycardia may feel like your heart is racing, or your chest pounding. Tachycardia is a heartbeat that exceeds 100 beats per hour (bpm). Poor circulation can cause poor blood flow to the brain and other organs, weakness of the heart, bloodclot formation or weakening the dysfunction of your heart muscle.
Bradycardia is a condition where your resting heart beat is below 60 bpm. It can feel like your heart is beating slowly or thudding. This slow heart rate can often be caused by an underlying condition.
Bradycardia is similar to tachycardia. This means that the heartbeat and tissues of the body don’t get the oxygenated blood they require for optimal health. This can cause fainting and even death.
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) can cause unsteady heart beats. It can feel like your heart is fluttering or your heart is quivering. There may not be any obvious signs at first. If your heart doesn’t beat in a steady, coordinated manner, there is a greater chance of developing serious cardiovascular problems, such as stroke and blood clots.
The most commonly used test to diagnose arrhythmia is an electrocardiogram (ECG). An ECG recording is a useful tool for managing arrhythmia, according to a 2018 study.
An ECG (sometimes called an EKG) records your heart’s electrical activity. An ECG is used in hospitals and medical offices. It includes a display screen, a recorder and wires attached with electrodes. The electrodes are placed on the chest or other areas of your body.
An ECG can record the rhythm of your heartbeat and print it out. The ECG also records the intervals between heartbeats. This can be used to determine if they are too slow, too fast, or irregular.
A portable monitor may be recommended by your healthcare professional if a standard ECG fails to detect an arrhythmia. The Holter monitor is one type. It can be worn 24 hours, for days, or even weeks, to capture arrhythmias.
An echocardiogram uses sound waves to produce live images of your heart. This test can be used to diagnose structural issues that could lead to arrhythmias.
Transthoracic echocardiography is a method that uses ultrasound waves to scan your chest. The computer transforms the waves from your heart into images that can then be viewed on a computer monitor.
Transesophageal echocardiography is an option if the images aren’t clear enough. This involves using a thinner, smaller transducer to pass down the throat to reach the esophageal duct, which is behind your heart. It may give you a clearer view.
- Chest Xray
A standard chest X-ray can be used to get a clear picture of your heart and lungs and especially to determine if it is enlarged. An enlarged heart can be caused by several conditions, including cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy can be caused by arrhythmias. A 2018 study found that cardiomyopathy can sometimes be reversed once it is detected.
- Blood tests
A blood test is a great way to determine if you have arrhythmia. These include levels of thyroid hormones, potassium, and other electrolytes that may affect your heart rhythm.
Arrhythmias can only be activated when you are stressed or exercise. A healthcare professional can increase your heart rate by asking you to walk fast on a treadmill or bike. Sometimes, medication may be used to increase your heart rate.
What are the current treatment options available for arrhythmia
A doctor can help you determine the severity of your arrhythmia by reviewing your medical history and testing your results. A few arrhythmias are mild and do not require any medication, devices or treatment. You may prefer to live a healthier lifestyle and avoid stimulants. Schedule regular checkups.