What is an irregular heartbeat?
An irregular heartbeat is a pathological dysfunction of the cardiac muscle as a result of which a rhythmicity and a sequence of the cardiac beat is changed. This disease is called arrhythmia in the medicine field and has several types. The arrhythmia includes various types of the heartbeat according to the mechanism, symptoms, and a clinical prediction, and every of them is dangerous for the life of a patient.
5 facts about arrhythmia:
- A normal resting heart rate is 60-90 beats per minute. The heart beat grows up to 240 beats per minute, or is decreased up to 30 beats per minute during the arrhythmia.
- There are more than 50 million people in the world who suffer from the arrhythmia. And nearly the same number of people do not even suspect this disease.
- Smokers and people with the alcohol addiction have the attacks of the arrhythmia by 3-4 times more often than in people without bad habits.
- A risk of the development of the arrhythmia grows with age. About 70% of people at the age of over 50 have had one attack of the arrhythmia within the past year.
- Men have more often arrhythmia than women (by 1,5 times).
The episodic irregular heartbeat is not dangerous at the first sight but it is a common misbelief. Besides the primary symptoms such as pain in the chest, shortness of breath, and dizziness, the arrhythmia is dangerous due to the abrupt rise of the blood pressure and a possible blood congestion as a result of which the clots – thrombi are formed. Attaching to the vascular wall, they block the blood stream preventing the normal blood flow. It may become a cause of the myocardial infarction. However, every type of the arrhythmia has its clinical image, and in order to detect a danger, it is necessary to know about the most common types of the arrhythmia.
Types of irregular heartbeat
The arrhythmia is divided into the following types depending on a section of the heart where the disorders happen:
Dr. Arvind Mahadevan, MD: Knowing the area of the disorder, it is possible to assign a proper diagnostics and detect a course of the treatment. However, it is not recommended to begin the treatment before making an exact diagnosis.
One of the important characteristics of the arrhythmia is a heart rate. According to this type, this pathology is classified.
- Tachycardia – a disorder of the heart rate when the rate exceeds 90 beats per minute at rest. In case of the emotional or physical load, the heart rate significantly grows and may achieve crucial rates – 160-180 beats per minute.
- Bradycardia is a disorder of the heart beat when the pulse is less than 60 beats per minute.
- Ciliary arrhythmia is the most common type of arrhythmia that is observed in 60% of patients. The muscle fibers are contracted out of step, so that a chaotic atrial flutter begins. A chaotic contraction of the muscle fibers may be very serious because the fluctuations rate may be 30-40 beats per minute. A different heart rate within a short period may be very dangerous.
- Ectopic heartbeat is a premature contraction of the muscle fibers that is built in the normal rhythm. It is a common thing that not always indicates a pathology.
- Paroxysmal rhythm disturbance is an abrupt increase of the frequency of the cardiac beats (it may be rhythmical or chaotic) up to 200 beats per minute. Due to the rapid heartbeat, it is hard to count it. This attack also stops all of a sudden but a patient experiences many side effects during the attack: dizziness, buzzing in ears, high blood pressure, faint, nasal bleeding, and others.
Irregular heartbeat symptoms
As we have mentioned above, every type of the arrhythmia has a certain set of the symptoms which allows detecting a type of the pathology and prescribe a proper therapeutic treatment. besides the main signs of every types of the arrhythmia, there are concomitant symptoms that will help to know what happens with the body.
The main symptoms of the irregular heartbeat:
- Difficult breathing;
- Short breathing;
- Pain in the heart;
- Severe fatigue;
- Yawning as a sign of the oxygen deficit;
- Buzzing in ears, or insignificant blurred vision.
Every attack of the arrhythmia is accompanied by pressing in the heart area, and also a feeling of fading or a hard push in the heart. In case of some types of the arrhythmia, patients experience a sudden fading of the heart and difficult breathing, and in 30-40 seconds, a sudden and severe increase of the pulse begins, and it is accompanied by the irregular heartbeat.
The symptoms of the arrhythmia are obvious and clearly indicates to the irregular heartbeat, and so it is necessary to consult a cardiologist in order to detect a cause of the pathology and a level of its severity. As soon as you experience that your heart beats are irregular (fast, or slow), this is the first symptoms of the arrhythmia.
Irregular heartbeat causes
Dr. Arvind Mahadevan, MD: The WHO experts state that the irregular heartbeat has many causes, and any physiological or psychological abnormality may cause a change of the heartbeat. Moreover, rhythmicity of the heartbeat plays and a number of oscillations per minute (pulse) plays an important role in the specifics of the arrhythmia.
Any situation that causes a production of adrenaline in the blood may cause the arrhythmia. Many doctors even think that arrhythmia is a normal reaction of the cardiovascular system to the abrupt change of the biochemical processes in the body. But the use of the irregular heartbeat is expressed when the arrhythmia is manifested in single cases and is controlled.
If we consider causes of the irregular heartbeat in details, we can distinguish several main factors:
- Pathologies of the cardiovascular system (cardiac anomaly, stroke, ischemic heart disease, arterial hypertonia, and others);
- Endocrine disorders (bronchocele of the thyroid gland, a change of the androgenic hormone level, and others);
- Imbalance of electrolytes (deficit of potassium, magnesium, and vitamins);
- Fever during the infectious or viral disease (increase of the body temperature, increase of the pulse by 10 beats per minutes);
- Psychoemotional disorders (stress, emotional breakdown, depression, neurosis, anxiety, panic, phobia, pathological fear, and others).
The important causes of the irregular heartbeat are also alcohol, smoking, and drug abuse including opiates. Moreover, the arrhythmia may be controlled during the above mentioned factors, but in case of the severe alcohol or narcotic intoxication, it is impossible to control the arrhythmia, and it may lead to dangerous complications.
Is irregular heartbeat serious?
The irregular heartbeat is not dangerous for a human life as a separate pathology. This disease has negative symptoms, and that is all. However, depending on the type of the arrhythmia and a level of the heartbeat disorder, the disease may cause complications that may be fatal.
The human body experiences the “blood starvation” during the attack of the arrhythmia. The cardiac muscle is not able to pump enough amount of the blood, and it may affect the internal processes. The blood vessels of the brain and nervous system suffer most of all.
In case of the outbreak of the arrhythmia, the blood may be accumulated in the heart chambers, and so the clots are formed. These clots are called as thrombi. The worst thing is when this clot comes off and goes to aorta, and then to the brain, for example, and so a stroke happens. Thrombi are the main cause of strokes and myocardial infarctions in patients with the cardiovascular diseases, when more than 16 million people die every year.
That is why, the irregular heartbeat may be non-serious pathology at the first sight but the consequences may be very dangerous. In case of the frequent abnormalities that are accompanied by pain in the chest, shortness of breath, and fatigue, it is necessary to have a craniological examination. The arrhythmia is easily treatable.
How to stop irregular heartbeat?
You do not have to live with the irregular heartbeat, and even if the external symptoms are absent, and you feel good, it is necessary to cope with this disease. We will tell about the salvage therapy later on because a struggle with the acute attack of the arrhythmia steps forward.
How to stop the attack of the arrhythmia if it has taken you by surprise?
- Stop any physical activity.
- Relax and get rid of the negative thoughts that may cause an agitation.
- Open the window if you are in the room, or open your skirt if you are at the street. You need more oxygen.
- The vagal maneuver quickly helps. This method of holding the breath, moderate pressing on the eyeballs within several seconds, and causing vomiting.
- If it did not help, it is necessary to take a drug with the sedative action.
You should do everything to calm down. Do not panic and do not be afraid. Any attack will just grow if you get nervous and worry.
Medication to reduce heart rate. Drugs to slow heart rate
If the non-medicamental methods to stop the arrhythmia outbreak did not help, it is necessary to have medications that will help to restore the heartbeat. These are the medications with the fast action that regulate the work of the heart within 2-5 minutes.
The following products will be good for these purposes:
- Sodium channel blockers are a group of medications that reduce the supply of the sodium ions in the heart cells. As you know, the electric impulse in the heart is related to the activity of the ionic channels, including with sodium channels. Blocking them, it is possible to reduce the frequency of the electric impulses and regulate the pulse. Drugs of the choice are Procainamide, and Quinidine.
- Blockers of the sodium channels lower the frequency and intensity of the electric impulses slowing the movement of the sodium ions in the cell. The drugs of the choice are Verapamil, and Diltiazem.
- Beta-blocking agents are drugs of the broad action that arrest the arrhythmia by means of the lowered activity of the transmitters taking part in the increase of the heart rate and a heart muscle strength. The drugs of the choice are Metoprolol, and Propranolol.
Dr. Arvind Mahadevan, MD: The beta-blocking agents will do better out of these medication groups in order to treat the prolonged arrhythmia. They are ineffective during the urgent aid but they help to stabilize the heart rate for a long period. For example, Propranolol starts acting in a week of the treatment, and the effect is achieved till the end of the second week. But it lasts longer compared to the medications in other groups. The functions of the cardiovascular system are kept normal even after the end of the treatment.