Heart Rhythm Disorders

Heart Rhythm Disorders

What are Heart Rhythm Disorders

Electrical signals keep the Heart’s pump function in sync so it can beat properly. Heart Rhythm Disorders – or Arrhythmias – is when your Heartbeat becomes irregular, too fast, or too slow.

Most of the time, heart rhythm problems are harmless and occur in people with healthy Hearts. However, some abnormal Heart rhythms can be quite serious. There are many types of arrhythmias. The most common ones are:

  • AF (Atrial Fibrillation) – The Heart beats irregularly and sometimes faster than usual.

  • SVT (SupraVentricular Tachycardia – an abnormally fast heartbeat. Occurs mainly at rest.

  • Heart block – the Heartbeat slows down and can cause people to feel dizzy or pass out

  • Sick Sinus Syndrome – periods of fast or slow heartbeats, that come and go

How do I know if my Heart Rhythm is abnormal?

The symptoms depend on the type of arrhythmia you may have. The most common symptoms are:

  • palpitations (pounding or fluttering sensation in the chest, skipped heartbeat)

  • dizziness

  • feeling as if you’re about to faint or pass out

  • breathlessness

  • chest discomfort

  • feeling tired

What causes a Heart Rhythm Disorder?

There are many factors that can affect your heart’s rhythm. Some conditions that can cause an arrhythmia are:

  • Coronary Artery Disease (including a previous Heart Attack)

  • Heart Failure (Heart Impairment)

  • Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine (coffee, energy drinks, tea)

  • Overactive or Underactive Thyroid Gland (Hyperthyroidism/Hypothyroidism)

  • Certain medication (pain killers, antihistamines, inhalers)

  • Viral illnesses

How is an abnormal Heart Rhythm diagnosed?

In addition to detailed questioning regarding your symptoms and a thorough physical examination, you’re likely to need diagnostic tests that may include:

  • Blood test

  • ECG (Electrocardiogram)

  • ECG Holter monitor (portable ECG)

  • Event recorder (wearable ECG)

  • Echocardiogram

  • Implantable loop recorder

How is a Heart Rhythm Disorder treated?

Some abnormal heart rhythms don’t require treatment and are rather harmless. It’s normal for your heart to skip a beat now and then. You can have mild palpitations and live a healthy life.

Treatment for arrhythmias is usually only needed if:

Treatment is tailored according to the type of arrythmia and may include:

  • Medication (stabilises rhythm and rate)

  • Pacemaker (helps keeping the heart beating at a normal rate)

  • Cardioversion (restores normal heart rhythm)

  • Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator – or ICD (shocks your heart back into a normal rhythm if needed)

How do I live with an abnormal Heart Rhythm?

Most arrythmias are manageable. With the right treatment, you can have a good quality of life.

Please take your medications as prescribed and report back if you’re experiencing side effects.

If you live in the UK, and your arrhythmia affects your driving, you must inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and your car insurance company.

To keep your heart healthy and happy, I recommend:

  • regular physical activity

  • a healthy diet

  • maintaining a healthy weight.