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World Heart Rhythm Week 2021: All About Arrhythmia (Irregular Heartbeat)

World heart rhythm week 2021: Stroke and heart failure are complications of Arrhythmia

Highlights

  • World Heart Rhythm Week creates awareness about Arrhythmia
  • Arrhythmia is described as an irregular heartbeat
  • Palpitations may arise from premature contractions of the heart

Arrhythmia, irregular heartbeat is a condition in which a patient’s heart may beat too quickly, too slowly, too early, or with an irregular rhythm. For most people, these irregular heartbeats or heart abnormalities are a rare occurrence however, others might have dozens of these heart flutters a day. Sometimes these palpitations are so intense that they feel like a heart attack. Instead of the heart beating at a normal rate, these abnormalities can cause the heart to abruptly race at rates that exceed the normal capacity. Most palpitations are caused by a mild interruption in the heart’s rhythm, but a few may reflect an underlying cardiovascular disease.

World Heart Rhythm Week is commemorated every year to raise awareness on detecting arrhythmias and ensuring people are cognizant of their heart rhythm and don’t ‘miss a heartbeat’. Observing the same, here is everything one must know.

World Heart Rhythm Week 2021: Why does the heart skip a beat?

Some palpitations may arise from premature contractions of the heart’s upper chambers (called atria). This happens when the atria contract a fraction of a second earlier than it should and rest for longer afterward to get back to their usual rhythm. This feels like a missed heartbeat and is often followed by a noticeably forceful contraction as the lower chambers (ventricles) clear out the extra blood they accumulated during the pause. These premature heartbeats are mostly benign, indicating they are not life-threatening or the sign of a possible heart attack.

Also read: Understanding Sudden Cardiac Arrest, Its Symptoms, Treatment And More

What causes heart palpitations?

Palpitations can appear and disappear just as suddenly. They can be linked with certain activities, events, or emotions. Some people notice their heart skipping a beat when they are drifting off to sleep while others may experience it while bending over. Palpitations can be caused by:

  • Stress, anxiety, or panic
  • Dehydration
  • Low potassium intake
  • Low blood sugar
  • High intake of caffeine, chocolate, or alcohol
  • Persistent fever

Stress and anxiety are the key triggers for skipped heartbeats. To keep palpitations in control, people can try meditation, exercise, yoga, or other stress-busting activities. Breathing exercises or relaxing individual muscle groups can also help the body.

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Stress, anxiety or panic can result in palpitation
Photo Credit: iStock

Possible complications:

Some patients may not experience active symptoms due to arrhythmia. However, treatment is still essential for preventing further complications, which may lead to stroke and heart failure.

Stroke: Atrial fibrillation means that the heart is not pumping effectively. This condition can cause blood to collect form clots. If a clot displaces, it may travel to a brain artery, causing a potentially fatal blockage, or stroke. Stroke can cause damage to the brain and requires emergency treatment.

Heart failure: Prolonged tachycardia (heart rate over 100 beats per minute) or bradycardia (heart rate of under 60 beats per minute) can result in heart failure. When the heart is failing, it cannot pump enough blood to the body and its organs.

Also read: Heart-healthy habits

Diagnosing heart palpitations

An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a common diagnostic tool for evaluating patients with palpitations. This recording of the heart’s electrical activity shows the heart’s rhythm and any other disturbances, but only over the course of 12 seconds or so. The doctor might record the heart rhythm for longer to identify the cause of the palpitations. If the palpitations are accompanied by chest pain, the doctor may suggest the patient have an exercise stress test. If there is a fast pulse or dizziness, an electrophysiology study using a special probe inserted into the heart might be required.

Also read: 6 Diet Tips You Must Follow For A Healthy Heart

Seek medical assistance at the right time

In case of persistent signs like dizziness, light-headedness, sudden palpitations, hypertension, nausea, shortness of breath, or chest pain, immediately consult a doctor.

Early diagnosis and prompt treatment will help patients lead a good quality of life, decreasing illness and unfortunate fatalities. To take care of the heart, people must eat a diet high in fibre and protein including fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, and pulses). It is best to avoid spicy, oily, processed, or junk food. Managing hypertension and cholesterol by regular monitoring along with regular exercising and maintaining an optimum weight is recommended.

(Dr Anoop Gupta, Interventional Cardiologist and Cardiac Electrophysiologist, EPIC Hospital, Ahmedabad)

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