What is a Cardiac Arrhythmia and Can it Lead to a Cardiac Arrest?
Post the news of former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit passing away from a cardiac arrest, it’s emerged that she was suffering with a related heart condition – cardiac arrhythmia or an irregular heartbeat.
What Exactly is a Cardiac Arrhythmia?
Heart rhythm problems occur when your heart beats too fast or too slow or irregularly, and these are caused when there is a problem with the electrical impulses that carry your heartbeat.
Mayo Clinic writes that these could range from harmless to life-threatening.
Since this condition is often undetectable, you may not be able to notice anything out of the ordinary at first. Here are a list of common symptoms:
- A fluttering in your chest
- A racing heartbeat (tachycardia)
- A slow heartbeat (bradycardia)
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Fainting (syncope) or near fainting
It may be a good idea to visit a doctor when the symptoms get too severe and when you find yourself feeling dizzy and fainting more frequently.
If you feel you have a very fast heartbeat, seek urgent medical attention.
Causes of an Arrhythmia
According to Mayo Clinic, many things can cause or create an irregular heartbeat. These include:
- A current heart attack
- Scarring of heart tissue from a previous heart attack
- Changes to your heart's structure
- Blocked arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease)
- High blood pressure
- Overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism)
- Underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
- Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine
- Drug abuse
- Certain medications and supplements, including over-the-counter cold and allergy drugs and nutritional supplements
- Sleep apnea
Out of these, the risk factors to watch out for are coronary heart disease or issues from a previous heart problem, high blood pressure, too much stress, smoking, alcohol or drug use, thyroid issues and diabetes.
According to Cleveland Clinic, most sudden heart attacks are caused by a form of arrhythmia called ventricular fibrillation, which is an “erratic, disorganized firing of impulses from the ventricles (the heart’s lower chambers).”
For example, participating in sports can increase your heartbeat as more blood is pumped to your organs, and it is common to have a reduced heart rate while sleeping or mediating.
While some arrhythmia may increase the chances of a stroke or heart failure, Medical News Today reminds us that often, arrhythmia have no associated conditions. Treatment for arrhythmia occurs only when the condition is putting the patient at serious risk, which your doctor will asses.
Nonetheless, the risk of an arrhythmia can be reduced by having a healthy diet and exercising daily, along with reducing alcohol usage and stopping smoking.
Keeping a healthy weight is also recommended and Mayo Clinic advises against using many over the counter medications that may have side-effects that increase your heartbeat.
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