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Heart Rhythm Problems (Arrhythmia)

 

Heart rhythm refers to the rate and pattern at which your heart beats. This electrocardiogram (EKG) strip shows the heart’s normal pattern of beating of 60 to 100 beats per minute. The heartbeat pattern is regular and even.

normal heart rhythm

Whenever the impulse that signals the heart to beat is interrupted or distorted, heart rhythm will be irregular, and the heart may not pump blood effectively. This is called dysrhythmia or arrhythmia.

Not all heart rhythm changes are harmful, and in many cases, people are not even aware of an occasional irregular heart rhythm.

However, you should contact your doctor if your heart rate or rhythm changes and does not return to normal. In most cases, medication and/or lifestyle changes can help control dysrhythmia.

There are several different types of dysrhythmia: 


Bradycardia
Bradycardia is a slow heartbeat; slower than 60 beats per minute. Many people have a slow heartbeat without even knowing it, and some medications may cause a slow heart rate. Slow heartbeat can be normal, but if you feel dizzy, faint, weak or tired, call your doctor or go to the emergency room.

Bradycardia


Tachycardia
Tachycardia is an unusually fast heartbeat; more than 100 times per minute. It can happen suddenly and last just a few minutes, or it can last much longer. If tachycardia causes you to feel short of breath, dizzy, weak, sweaty or faint, contact a Banner Heart Care Center as soon as possible or go to the emergency department.

Tachycardia


Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs)
Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs) are heartbeats that begin too early. They start in the heart’s ventricles instead of the sinus node. They occur both in healthy people and people with heart disease. Stress, anxiety, caffeine and certain drugs can cause occasional PVCs even in young adults. PVCs may be harmless, or they can be the beginning of more serious dysrhythmia.

Premature Ventricular Contractions

You may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • A fast heart rate, a “fluttering” feeling
  • Light-headedness or dizziness.

There are medications that can control PVCs. It may also help to make the following lifestyle changes:

  • Make sure you get enough sleep
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and street drugs
  • Try to reduce the stress in your life.

Atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is fast, irregular heartbeat. When atrial fibrillation occurs, the muscles in the heart’s upper chambers (atria) quiver instead of contracting. This causes the heart to pump less blood to the body. You may experience atrial fibrillation if you have valve problems or if you have had a heart attack or heart surgery.

Atrial fibrillation

You may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • A feeling of weakness
  • Palpitations
  • Chest discomfort
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Shortness of breath


For More Information 

hand holding heart Learn more about arrhythmia
video

Video: Arrhythmia 

podcast Podcast: Pacemakers

 


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