by Dr. Renish Bera, Doctor of Medicine (Cardiology) HCG Hospitals Rajkot
The human heart beats normally at a constant rate of 60-100 beats/minute under normal health conditions. The heart beats at a regular rhythm to supply blood and oxygen to the vital organs in the system at a steady pace. And some alterations in heart rate and rhythm are quite normal during sleep, strenuous physical activity, times of stress, and certain environmental situations. However, at other times, irregular heart rhythms may indicate a severe problem. An irregular heartbeat is known as an arrhythmia or a dysrhythmia. If left untreated arrhythmias like tachycardia or atrial fibrillation (AFib or AF) can result in severe complications including cardiac arrest and heart failure, untreated AF can result in stroke.
Most people live with this condition, and some don’t even know, as there aren’t always any signs or symptoms. Anyone can develop an arrhythmia and there are certain contributing factors that put people at risk of developing it.
Different Types Of Arrhythmias
There are several types of arrhythmias that include:
1. Bradycardia -where the heartbeat is slower than normal
2. Tachycardia – where the heartbeat is faster than normal
a) Atrial fibrillation – electrical signals in the heart that cause an irregular heartbeat and cause the atrium to contract faster than the ventricle
b) Ventricular fibrillation -where the ventricle contracts very fast
c) Premature contraction- where the heart has an additional early beat that results in an irregular rhythm
d) Atrial flutter- it is a condition where the heart’s atria beat very fast
What Are the Risk Factors For Arrhythmias?
Generally, people with a previous history of heart problems are at high risk for developing arrhythmias. Also, heart conditions change the way the heart functions and over time this can lead to the heart altering its beat or pace.
Risk Factors Include:
Coronary Heart Disease: This condition is caused by an accumulation of plaque or scarring on the heart or the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle, which makes it harder for the heart to pump blood. This can slow heart rate resulting in arrhythmia.
Heart Attack Or Heart Failure : A heart attack or heart failure can alter the heart’s electrical impulses leading to a high risk of arrhythmia.
Endocarditis: It is an inflammation of the heart muscle and people with this problem often have atrial fibrillation.
Heart Valve Disease: Weak heart valves can cause changes in the way the heart beats and can result in arrhythmias.
Congenital Heart Disorders: People are born with heart problems that may affect the way their heart works. In this situation, the heart may not be able to make a normal heartbeat.
Channelopathies – Long QT, short QT and brugada syndrome
Age, gender, and lifestyle factors contribute to the development of arrhythmia.
Age: People above 60 years are at high risk.
Gender: Men are more likely to develop atrial fibrillation than women.
Lifestyle Habits: Poor dietary habits and certain lifestyle practices like drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and having illegal drugs can also up the risk of arrhythmias.
Other Factors That Increase Risk:
Other health conditions that can also elevate your risk for arrhythmia include:
· Chronic lung disease
· Pulmonary embolism
· Sleep apnea
· Thyroid disorder
· High blood pressure
The chemical imbalance that develops due to a deficiency of minerals potassium, magnesium, calcium, and other vital chemicals in the body required for maintaining a regular heart rhythm can increase the risk of arrhythmias.
Some people with this condition lead an active, healthy life and in some cases, don’t even have an irregular heartbeat. However, if left untreated, it can result in severe, life-threatening conditions like cardiac arrest or stroke.
Some of the preventive measures one can do to lessen the risk of developing an arrhythmia include:
· Monitor blood pressure regularly
· Get regular exercise
· Maintain a healthy body weight.
· Eat a balanced and wholesome diet that supports diminishing cholesterol levels and reduce weight
· Quit smoking and restrict alcohol intake
Know your risk factors and discuss with the healthcare provider to mitigate the chances of arrhythmia or get immediate treatment if it develops. Also being aware of the condition, its danger, and risks can give one the edge to manage heart health.
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