An arrhythmia occurs when there’s a glitch in your heart’s electrical system and the heartbeat changes from its normal, steady pace. The electrical signals may make your heart beat faster, slower, or erratically. In all cases, the heart can’t pump blood efficiently. Arrhythmias occur when:
Heart arrhythmias can occur in healthy hearts, where they’re triggered by factors such as stress or anger, smoking, heavy alcohol use, too much caffeine or nicotine, and some prescription or over-the-counter medications.
Underlying health problems also cause arrhythmias, including:
You can develop several types of cardiac arrhythmias. They’re not all dangerous to your health, but any arrhythmia you experience should be evaluated by a specialist like Dr. Jindal to make sure you don’t have a heart problem.
Atrial fibrillation is the most common and dangerous type of arrhythmia. It develops when the heart’s electrical system is damaged, often due to high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, or inflammation.
During atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart beat rapidly and in a disorganized pattern. Atrial fibrillation can cause blood clots, which in turn increases your risk for stroke. It may also trigger heart failure.
If your heart beats too fast or has an irregular rhythm, medications may help restore your normal heartbeat. Beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and digoxin slow down the heart rate, while a variety of other medications are available to change an irregular rhythm back to a steady pace. Dr. Jindal may also prescribe blood thinning medications to prevent a clot from forming.
A pacemaker is the primary treatment option for a slow heart rate, although it’s also used to treat other types of arrhythmias. Dr. Jindal inserts the pacemaker under the skin on your chest; then he runs wires from the device to the heart, where sensors detect electrical activity.
Any time the pacemaker senses an abnormal heart beat, it stabilizes the beat by sending a low-energy electrical impulse to your heart. Another treatment option, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), is similar to a pacemaker but uses high-energy electrical pulses to treat life-threatening arrhythmias.
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