Heart Arrhythmias also are known as Cardiac Arrhythmias are problems that occur in the pulse or heart rate, causing the heart to beat very fast (tachycardia), very slow (bradycardia), or irregularly.
Heart Arrhythmias may not cause harm or be very serious. Heart Arrhythmias usually requires treatment and can control or eliminate fast, slow, or irregular heartbeats.
Our pulse indicates our heart rate or the number of times our heartbeats in one minute. This frequency is usually between 60 and 100 beats per minute at rest.
Arrhythmia is an issue with the rhythm of your heartbeat, which means that your heart beats too quickly, too slowly, or with an unusual pattern. When the heart beats faster than usual, it is called Tachycardia. When the heart beats extremely slowly, it is called Bradycardia.
Place only the tips of your index and middle fingers on your wrist. Press gently with your fingers until you feel the blood pulsing under your fingers. Count the number of beats in 10 seconds and multiply by 6.
A regular heart rate, at rest, is 50 to 100 beats per minute.
Tachycardia: A fast heart rhythm. More than 100 beats per minute
Bradycardia: A slow heart rhythm. Below 60 beats per minute
Supraventricular Arrhythmias: Arrhythmias that begin in the atria
Ventricular Arrhythmias: Arrhythmias that begin in the ventricles
Different conditions may cause cardiac arrhythmia, such are the following:
Sleep disorders, where breathing stops and starts repeatedly
Consumption of some medications and supplements
Drinking excessive alcohol
Drinking too much caffeine
Heart attack that occurs at the moment
Healing process of heart tissue resulting from a previous heart attack
Heart problems, caused by cardiomyopathy
Blockage of the arteries of the heart
Overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism)
Hypoactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
Diagnosis of Cardiac Arrhythmias
The Cardiologist will perform a physical exam, specific cardiac monitoring tests for Arrhythmias, and questions based on your symptoms, lifestyle, and medical history.
Following are some of the most common tests that could be carried out:
Electrocardiogram allows measuring the time and duration of each electrical phase of the heartbeat
Holter monitor, allows you to record the activity of your heart while you do your routine
Episode recorder, used for sporadic Arrhythmias, when your present symptoms, connect this device to your body that allows the doctor to check the heart rate at the time of symptoms
Echocardiogram reproduces images of the size, structure, and movement of the heart
Implantable loop recorder, if your symptoms are not frequent, this device allows documenting the electrical activity of the heart and identify abnormal heart rhythms
If an arrhythmia is not found during these tests, the Cardiologist may perform another series, such as:
Tilting table test, heart rate, and blood pressure are evaluated in case of fainting; the patient lies on a table, which tilts simulating standing
The Electrophysiologists study, through the blood vessels, thin tubes (catheters) with electrodes are inserted at the tips, which are guided to the heart, using radiographic images. Activity and electrical pathways of the heart are recorded and mapped; the results can help find the cause of the problem
Treatment of Cardiac Arrhythmias
The treatment provided will be according to the severity and type of cardiac arrhythmia.
Common treatment options include:
Caring for slow heartbeats
Pacemaker, this device helps stimulate the heart to beat at the correct rate
Caring for a fast heartbeat
Vagal maneuvers, the patient must hold his breath and press, immerse the face in ice water or cough, these maneuvers allow the heart rate to decrease, affecting the nervous system that controls the heartbeat. This method is recommended for people suffering from tachycardia.
Antiarrhythmic medications, you should take the antiarrhythmic medicines prescribed by your doctor, to minimize complications.
Anticoagulant medications, in case of atrial fibrillation
Cardioversion, this method allows the heart rhythm to return to its normal state
Catheter ablation — radiofrequency energy is used to cut a small heart tissue area that causes the arrhythmia
Pacemaker allows control of abnormal heart rhythms
Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD), the use of this device is recommended if you have suffered cardiac arrest or if there is a high probability of having a cardiac arrest or a rapid heartbeat. This equipment detects an abnormal heart rhythm and helps restore a normal heart rhythm
Surgery or other procedures
Labyrinth procedure: it allows us to intervene in isolated electrical impulses that cause certain types of arrhythmia. This procedure requires surgery. It is generally recommended for those who undergo heart surgeries for other problems or people who do not respond to other treatments
Coronary bypass surgery: This method is recommended for people who have severe coronary artery disease in addition to Arrhythmias
Living with Cardiac Arrhythmias
Following the treatment provided by your Cardiologist and leading a healthy lifestyle could help improve quality of life.
Following are some recommendations for you to consider:
Do regular and continued physical exercise
Do not smoke
Don't drink alcohol excessively
Maintain a healthy weight
Eat fruits and vegetables
Maintain a low-salt diet
When to see a doctor?
It is essential to consult a Cardiologist to diagnose Cardiac Arrhythmias and start a treatment that helps you control your symptoms.
When consulting your Cardiologist, try to keep a record of your pain with a detailed description of the symptoms, duration, and what you think triggered them. Also, mention any medications you are taking.
See a doctor If you have any of the symptoms mentioned or have been diagnosed with arrhythmia, and the symptoms get worse, or the treatment does not work.
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