What is an arrhythmia?
An arrhythmia is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. This can cause the heart to beat too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia), or irregularly. During an arrhythmia, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body, which can, in turn, cause damage to the brain, heart and other organs. One of the most common types of serious arrhythmias is atrial fibrillation, or AFib. In AFib, the upper chambers (atria) of the heart beat irregularly and can’t pump enough blood into the lower chambers (ventricles). If the ventricles don’t fill with enough blood or can’t pump enough blood out to the body, heart failure can result. In addition, clots can form when blood pools in the atria. If clots break off and travel to the brain, a stroke can occur.
What are the signs and symptoms?
There are often no signs of arrhythmias, but when they are present, some common symptoms include heart palpitations, a slow or rapid heartbeat, an irregular heartbeat, dizziness and weakness, faintness, shortness of breath, sweating, chest pain and anxiety.
Methods of treatment
Most arrhythmias are harmless, and even serious arrhythmias can often be successfully treated. Medications to restore a safe heart rhythm or to thin the blood may be prescribed; medical procedures such as cardioversion, defibrillation or others may be performed; and devices such as pacemakers or ICDs may be implanted. In addition, maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle can help you to live longer and better with an arrhythmia. Researchers at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation continue to study arrhythmia patients and treatments to determine new and better ways of helping people with heart rhythm disorders.