What is arrhythmia?

An arrhythmia is a disruption in the regularity of the heartbeat. Arrhythmias are actually quite common; Many people live with an arrhythmia and do not know it. In some cases, an arrhythmia can be more serious and require medical intervention and treatment. Since the heart is such an important organ, regular check-ups should always include an evaluation of heart function, because it is essential that the heart works properly. Various diagnostic tools, such as EKGs, can be used to get a better picture of heart rhythms.

In normal people, the heart beats steadily in a classic "lub-dub" pattern, reflecting the flow of blood through the chambers of the heart. In a person with arrhythmia, the muscle contractions of the heart do not follow a normal pattern, with the heart beating too slowly, too fast, or extremely irregularly, missing beats, or spacing out beats in an odd way. Sometimes the patient may be aware that her heart is beating irregularly; This can be distressing or irritating, depending on the type of arrhythmia.

When someone's heart beats too slowly, it is known as bradycardia. This condition is common in athletes, who have conditioned their hearts for physical activity. An abnormally fast heartbeat is called tachycardia. Other arrhythmias have different names; These two are the most common and well-known. Another type of arrhythmia, fibrillation, is extremely serious and reflects a tremor of the heart muscle, rather than a strong contraction. Fibrillation will lead to death if left untreated.

There are several causes of arrhythmias, including stress, congenital heart disease, drug use, and general aging. Diet, exercise, and other medical conditions can also have an impact on heart health. Some people notice that their hearts seem to beat irregularly during high-stress events; This is a normal response to stress, although it can be distracting. Other individuals experience random arrhythmias such as heart palpitations that do not appear to be related to stress. These arrhythmias may indicate a more serious problem.

When an arrhythmia is diagnosed, the next step depends on the type of arrhythmia. For many people, nothing is done, although the patient can be encouraged to eat a heart-healthy diet or become more aware of their heart functions by reporting abnormal events to a doctor. In other cases, medications may be prescribed to treat the arrhythmia. An extreme arrhythmia can be treated with an implanted medical device that shocks the heart to force it into a regular rhythm.

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