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1. Cardiac arrhythmia is characterised by irregular heartbeats, where the heart may beat too fast, too slow, or in an erratic pattern.
2. Some arrhythmias can be dangerous. Seek medical help if you suspect or are diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia.
3. Lifestyle changes, along with medications, procedures or implant devices can help effectively manage arrhythmia.
Ever wondered how and why your heart beats?
Your heart has a natural pacemaker known as the sinoatrial (SA) node. The SA node generates electrical impulses, which cause the heart to beat rhythmically. Your heartbeat normally increases during exercise and decreases during resting or sleep. Your heart needs to beat in rhythm because it needs to pump blood with nutrients and oxygen to all parts of the body efficiently.
Cardiac arrhythmia which impacts your heartbeat, is often a silent condition. Arrhythmias can be benign (harmless) or malignant (dangerous).
Cardiac arrhythmia is a heart condition characterised by irregular heartbeats.
Arrhythmias can arise from abnormalities either in the generation of electrical impulses, their conduction through the heart, or a combination of both factors.
In a normal healthy adult, the heart rate is about 60 to 100 beats per minute in the resting stage. Deviations from this range, either above or below, may indicate arrhythmia.
Cardiac arrhythmias can be broadly classified as:
Arrhythmias can also be classified into two types, based on their origin:
Your doctor is the best person to understand if you are having any serious cardiac rhythm issues.
Some arrhythmia types are harmless and do not require any treatment.
However, many other types of cardiovascular arrhythmia if left untreated can become life-threatening. It can lead to serious complications such as
In some patients, arrhythmias do not show any symptoms at all. Others may complain of
Arrhythmias usually happen when there is a problem with the heart's structures, namely its arteries, valves, or muscles. Other arrhythmia causes may include
The most common risk factors include
Arrhythmia impacts about 1.5 to 5% of the world’s population. According to the Global Burden of Disease study 2019, atrial fibrillation, the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia affects about 3.3 crores people worldwide.
Your doctor will ask you about your past medical history and symptoms. He/she will also carry out a thorough physical examination, including checking your heart, listening for irregularities and observing symptoms. The doctor may order one or more of the following tests to determine the best course of action for your care.
Your treatment plan will depend on the type of arrhythmia, its severity, and your overall health. Your doctor will guide you on the most suitable approach for your situation. Treatment may consist of:
You can lower your risk of cardiovascular arrhythmias by:
Several smartwatches or mobile apps are available that can help you measure your heartbeat. Alternatively, you can check your heartbeat rate by palpating your pulse. To count your heartbeat, place your index and middle fingers on your wrist (radial artery) or neck (carotid artery). Feel for the pulse and count the number of beats you feel in one minute.
What situations may trigger arrhythmias, especially for individuals with risk?
Arrhythmias can be triggered by certain situations, especially if you have risk factors. Triggers may involve:
Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common types of arrhythmias where the upper chambers of the heart (atria) beat irregularly and too fast. It increases the risk of complications such as stroke, so it requires medical attention and management.
CPR, or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, is a life-saving technique. It involves chest compressions and rescue breaths to maintain blood circulation and provide oxygen to the body when a person's heart has stopped beating suddenly due to a severe arrhythmia. CPR helps to buy time during a heart emergency, increasing the chances of survival until medical help is available.
Exercise is good for your heart. However, it is important to ensure that your workout plan is safe and appropriate for your condition. Always seek your doctor’s advice to determine the most appropriate exercise plan suitable for you. Your doctor may also recommend monitoring your heart rate during exercise.
Understanding and managing cardiac arrhythmias is crucial for proper heart functioning. Remember, if you or someone you know experiences symptoms, seek prompt medical attention. Additionally, embracing a heart-healthy lifestyle and monitoring your risk factors, plays a significant role in managing arrhythmias.
About the Author
Dr. Satish Madiraju, a renowned cardiologist is passionate about consumer heart health and is on a mission to prevent a million heart attacks. He shares his expertise not only on heart health but also on leadership, digital health, and improving patient experience.