An irregular heartbeat is when your heart is beating too fast or too slow. When anything causes disruption to the valves, nodes, or chambers in your heart and blood flow, the pattern of the heartbeat will become disrupted too.
Irregular heartbeats are known as arrhythmias or heart rhythm disorders, and they are not generally life-threatening. Since they can signal an underlying heart condition that could be more serious, it is important not to ignore them.
You may be able to feel that your heart is beating faster or slower, but in addition to this, an irregular heartbeat can also cause other symptoms, including:
♦ Pale skin
♦ Shortness of breath
♦ Chest pain
A heartbeat that is too fast is known as tachycardia, and one that is too slow is known as bradycardia. The irregular heartbeat can originate in either the upper (atrial arrhythmia) or lower (ventricular arrhythmia) chambers of the heart.
♦ Tachycardia: When your heart is beating over 100 beats per minute as compared to the normal rate of 60 beats per minute, you have tachycardia. Tachycardia can start in either chamber or can be caused by a normal reaction to stress or excitement, or even when you get sick.
♦ Bradycardia: When your heartbeat is slower than 60 beats per minute, it’s referred to as Bradycardia. This type usually results from disrupted electric signals between the atria and ventricles. Some people like athletes have naturally lower heartbeats because of their great physical condition.
An irregular heartbeat that is temporary may be caused by anxiety or stress. Other causes of rapid heartbeats can also include reactions to certain medications such as amphetamines and beta-blockers.
Imbalanced electrolytes can also cause temporary irregular heartbeats. There are a number of more serious diseases associated with an irregular heartbeat:
♦ Atrial fibrillation and flutter: Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of irregular heartbeat and occurs when several electrical impulses misfire and the atrial chambers quiver uncontrollably. Atrial flutter occurs in the right atria more often and is caused by a single misfiring impulse. This causes a faster heart rate, but the rhythm remains more stable than with atrial fibrillation. With proper medical care, you can live a normal life with both conditions.
♦ Congestive Heart Failure: This chronic and progressive condition impacts the power of your heart muscles to pump blood. Once fluid builds up around the heart, it cannot beat efficiently, and as a result, the heart and other organs do not get the blood or oxygen supply they need. CHF can be life-threatening, so medical treatment is needed immediately.
♦ Congestive (Dilated) Cardiomyopathy: Cardiomyopathy is a progressive disease affecting the heart muscle (myocardium). The heart becomes weak and unable to pump blood effectively. It can also cause an irregular heartbeat. Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common type, and it develops when the muscles become stretched and thin, allowing the heart chambers to expand. This enlarged heart condition can develop over time or can be inherited.
♦ Dissection of the aorta: The aorta carries blood out of your heart, and a dissection means blood is leaking outside of this blood vessel. This happens when the inner layer tears or a rupture occurs in any of the smaller blood vessels that supply the aorta. This leakage can cause fatal problems, including blockage of blood flow and blood flowing into your lungs.
♦ Heart attack: Certain types of irregular heartbeat can lead to a heart attack. Atrial and ventricular fibrillation cause the heart to pump inefficiently, and this can cause a heart attack if left untreated. Heart attacks or myocardial infarctions occur as a result of the heart’s oxygen supply being cut off.
♦ Hypertensive Heart Disease: Diseases of the heart caused by hypertension can include heart failure, coronary artery disease, and thickening of the heart muscle. This is the leading cause of death from high blood pressure and can be very serious.
♦ Ischemic cardiomyopathy: As a result of a heart attack or coronary artery disease, your heart muscle weakens causing ischemic cardiomyopathy. The left ventricle becomes enlarged as a result of this and becomes weak and unable to pump blood efficiently.
♦ Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP): The mitral valve is located between the left atrium and ventricle and allows blood to only flow one way. This condition causes the flap to not close correctly so that blood can flow back to the atrium. Serious complications are not likely, but you can experience an irregular heartbeat as a result.
♦ Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia (PSVT): PSVT is a common type of irregular heartbeat that can occur at any age. The sinus node in your heart causes signals telling the heart muscle to contract is not working and causes your heart to beat faster than normal. This condition can cause discomfort but is not usually life-threatening.
♦ Pulmonary Embolism: A blood clot in the lungs can cause problems in your heart, including an irregular heartbeat. The clot restricts blood flow and reduces oxygen levels to all organs, which can be life-threatening.
Your doctor needs to perform a physical examination and will listen to your heart first. An EKG (electrocardiogram) may also be used to get a more accurate read of the heart’s electrical activity.
Doctors may also use additional tools such as an echocardiogram to take pictures of your heart, or they can perform a stress test to see how your heart functions after exertion. The cause of the irregular heartbeat needs to be determined before treatment can be provided.
Treatment for an irregular heartbeat will depend on the cause. Lifestyle changes are the most common recommendations from doctors as well as increasing your level of physical activity.
Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption should be stopped, and limiting caffeine intake also helps to establish a more regular heartbeat. If your irregular heartbeat is more serious and lifestyle changes are not helping, doctors will also try:
♦ Catheter ablation to destroy tissues causing the problem
♦ Cardioversion which shocks the heart back to a normal rhythm
♦ Implantation of a pacemaker
♦ Cardiac catheterization to diagnose the underlying heart problem
An irregular heartbeat can be a symptom of an underlying condition. Medical treatment may be required, but there are also natural treatments you can use to protect your heart.
The underlying conditions that can cause an irregular heartbeat have common risk factors. Natural ingredients that fight these common factors protect your heart and reduce the risk of conditions that cause irregular heartbeat.
High cholesterol: Elevated cholesterol levels cause fatty deposits to collect along the arteries. This obstructs blood flow and causes damage to the arteries. Over time, high cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. These serious conditions all cause irregular heartbeats. Niacin and chromium both work naturally to lower cholesterol levels to prevent serious heart conditions.
Hypertension: High blood pressure places stress on the heart and blood vessels. Over time, this causes damage to the cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of disease. Natural ingredients like red yeast rice, pine bark extract, and berberine bark extract all work to reduce blood pressure. As part of a healthy lifestyle, these ingredients protect your heart and reduce the risk of heart conditions.
Chronic inflammation: Inflammation is the underlying cause of most serious diseases. Heart disease and stroke have been linked to chronic inflammation of the heart and blood vessels. To reduce inflammation in the body and boost healthy circulation, try lion's mane mushrooms and capsicum extract.
Irregular heart rhythms can be indicative of a serious heart problem, but they can also be easily controlled with treatment. Prevention is essential, which means regular visits to your doctor for checkups.
A healthy lifestyle, with a balanced diet and plenty of exercises, is the best way to protect your whole cardiovascular system and will help to keep your heartbeat regular.