Abnormal Heart Rhythms
Having an abnormal heart rhythm means that your heartbeat is irregular. The condition is known as arrhythmia. It doesn’t necessarily indicate that your heart is beating abnormally fast or slow; it means that it’s beating out of its normal rhythm.
If you’ve ever felt your heart fluttering or skipping a beat, then you like experienced an abnormal heart rhythm. That said, some heart arrhythmias are silent.
While arrhythmias can be harmless, they can be a medical emergency. If you are experiencing something unusual with your heartbeat, it is better to be safe and sorry and call 911.
Causes of an Abnormal Heart Rhythm
Several reasons could be the cause of an arrhythmia. These include:
- Having heart disease.
- Having an incorrect balance of electrolytes, such as potassium or sodium in your blood.
- Having had heart surgery.
- Having had a heart attack.
- Having a change in your heart muscle.
Symptoms of an Abnormal Heart Rhythm
As mentioned, some arrhythmias present with no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they include may include:
- Pounding in the chest
- Racing heart
- Fluttering heart
- Shortness of breath
- Lightheadedness and/or fainting
- Tightness in the chest
- Chest pain
- Feeling very tired
- Feeling weak
Doctors use one or more of the following tests to diagnose an abnormal heart rhythm:
EKG – Also called an ECG or electrocardiogram, this test records your heart’s electrical activity. Your healthcare technician places small electrodes on various parts of your chest, legs, and arms. The test is painless, and after the electrodes are placed, lasts only several seconds.
Holter Monitor – This test essential does the same thing as an EKG, but it is portable and records your heart activity over a longer period of time. You generally wear a Holter monitor for one to two days. You are asked to refrain from showering when wearing a Holter monitor.
Event Monitor – In the event that your symptoms are infrequent, your family physician or cardiologist may recommend you wearing an event monitor. When wearing this device, you push a button when you believe you are experiencing abdominal heart symptoms. When you push the device’s button, it begins to record your heart’s activity in order for your physician to interpret and evaluate the results.
Stress test – This test may be performed in order to determine how much stress your heart can take before it results in an abnormal heart rhythm. This test is typically performed using a treadmill, while your heart rhythm and blood pressure are monitored. In some cases, your doctor will recommend a nuclear stress test, which is performed using a small amount of radioactive substance instead of exercise to stress your heart.
Your doctor may recommend other tests as well.
Treating Abnormal Heart Rhythms
Several treatments exist for arrhythmias. These include medications, wearing a pacemaker, getting an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator, getting a cardioversion or having other procedures or surgery.
Contact us or request an appointment at Tri-City Cardiology for diagnostic testing and treatment for an abnormal heart rhythm.