With June 5 to 11 highlighting World Heart Rhythm Week, Life Med is urging people to educate themselves about arrhythmia. Arrhythmia is a condition in which the heart beats abnormally. The heart could either be beating rapidly or chaotically, slower or faster than normal or some beats could be triggered too early. Arrhythmias can be harmless, serious or life threatening.
Causes of arrhythmias include disease of the heart muscle, coronary arteries or valves, damage from a heart attack, high blood pressure, smoking, excessive alcohol intake and stress. If you are unsure whether your heartbeat is normal or not, consult a doctor.
Arrhythmias may not cause any signs or symptoms. In fact, your doctor might find you have an arrhythmia before you do, during a routine examination. Noticeable signs and symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have a serious problem, however.
Noticeable arrhythmia symptoms may include:
A fluttering in your chest
A racing heartbeat (tachycardia)
A slow heartbeat (bradycardia)
Shortness of breath
Lightheadedness or dizziness
Fainting (syncope) or near fainting
When to see a doctor
Arrhythmias may cause you to feel premature or extra heartbeats, or you may feel that your heart is racing or beating too slowly. Other signs and symptoms may be related to your heart not pumping effectively due to the fast or slow heartbeat. These include shortness of breath, weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting or near fainting, and chest pain or discomfort.
Seek urgent medical care if you suddenly or frequently experience any of these signs and symptoms at a time when you wouldn’t expect to feel them.
Ventricular fibrillation is one type of arrhythmia that can be deadly. It occurs when the heart beats with rapid, erratic electrical impulses. This causes pumping chambers in your heart (the ventricles) to quiver uselessly instead of pumping blood. Without an effective heartbeat, blood pressure plummets, cutting off blood supply to your vital organs.