One of the danger signs of an impending heart event — such as an attack or stroke — is a fluctuating heartbeat. A healthy heart beats strong and regular. Arrhythmia is an abnormal rhythm of your heartbeat. It signals that something is wrong in the function or anatomy of your heart. While an occasional flutter may be nothing to worry about, a prolonged bout of arrhythmia needs immediate attention.
Arrhythmia is a heart condition that causes your heart to beat too fast, too slow or with an irregular pattern. This abnormality in your heart rhythm can sometimes turn into a heart condition like coronary heart disease, conductive tissue disease or heart valve disease. In serious cases, arrhythmia is also associated with myocardial infarctions or a stroke.
Arrhythmia often has no symptoms. You may only discover your irregular heartbeat during a routine checkup with the best cardiologist at the New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center. If you experience any symptoms associated with heart disease, they may include:
- Chest pain
- Trouble breathing
- Syncope or lightheadedness
- Unexplained sweating
- Heart palpitations, causing a racing, pounding or fluttering feeling
Recognizing Abnormal Heartbeat Patterns
One in every four Americans over the age of 40 suffers from arrhythmia. If your heart rate is slower than 60 beats per minute, the condition is called bradyarrhythmia. If your heart beats faster than 100 beats per minute, you are suffering from tachyarrhythmia. The electrical impulses are usually disoriented in one of three places:
- The atria or upper chamber of your heart
- The ventricles or lower chamber of your heart
- An area in between, your accessory pathways
Symptoms and conditions that may require arrhythmia treatment for your heart include:
- Atrial fibrillation. This condition puts nearly 2.7 million Americans at risk for sudden cardiac death and stroke. Atrial fibrillation causes irregular electrical impulses, leading to blood clots and other fatal coronary diseases.
- Atrial flutter. When your heart beats fast, but with an even rhythm, it creates weak contractions of the atria. This can compromise your heart, potentially leading to a stroke.
- Heart block. This condition is characterized by how slowly the electrical impulses move from your atria to your ventricles.
- Long QT syndrome. If your heart starts beating fast and chaotically, you can faint or have a seizure. If you don’t get treatment, it can be fatal.
- Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia. This condition develops at any age. It’s often misdiagnosed as a panic attack.
- Sick sinus syndrome. When your heart’s natural pacemaker is compromised, it results in a slow heart rate. In some cases, your heart rate fluctuates between a slow rate and a rapid rate.
- Ventricular tachycardia. With this disease, you require immediate medical assistance, as it prevents your ventricles from pumping sufficient blood throughout your body.
- Ventricular fibrillation. An extreme version of ventricular tachycardia, this is often fatal if your heart rhythm isn’t restored to normal within minutes. Nearly 85 percent of sudden cardiac deaths are linked to this illness.
- Ventricular ectopic. Your heart beats prematurely, followed by a significant pause. The beat after the pause is usually stronger, making it feel like your heart’s fluttering.
- Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. A birth defect that doesn’t show symptoms until you’re an adult, this abnormal electrical connection occurs in your accessory pathways. It disrupts your normal heart rate.
Underlying Risk Factors for Arrhythmia
Determining the risks of developing an irregular heartbeat is a specialty of your arrhythmia specialist. Age, for example, is a factor, as people over the age of 40 are at a higher risk. Race is another risk factor, as Caucasians are more inclined to get arrhythmia, especially atrial fibrillation. Other risk factors for developing an irregular heartbeat include:
- High blood pressure
- Sleep apnea
- Caffeine and alcohol
- Thyroid hormone imbalance
- Over-the-counter antibiotics
- Low levels of potassium, magnesium or calcium
- Medication for high blood pressure, depression or psychosis
Cardiac Tests for Arrhythmia
To get the right treatment for your condition, your cardiology doctor conducts a thorough examination in the New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center. You may also have to undergo tests to measure your heartbeat, which point your cardiologist toward a particular arrhythmia treatment for you. Your tests may include:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG). Using electrical impulses, this test shows how your heart is functioning.
- Heart monitors. This is a device you wear for a set period of time. It records the heartbeats while you’re physically active.
- Like an ECG, except an echocardiogram uses ultrasound to create a live image of your heart.
- Stress test. You walk or run on a treadmill. Your heart is continuously monitored to determine if anything happens to it under stress.
Treating Your Heart
For bradycardia, an artificial pacemaker may be the best solution in some instances, as it safely monitors your heartbeats and sends electrical impulses to stimulate a normal heartbeat when your heart rate slows. If you have tachycardia, your NYC cardiologist may recommend:
- Vagal maneuvers. Hold your breath and strain, dunk your face in ice water or cough to jolt the vagus nerves and slow down your heart rate.
- A shock of electricity gets your heart rhythm back to normal.
- Catheter ablation. This technique uses electrodes on a catheter tip, inserted inside the blood vessels of your heart. It ablates the small part of your heart that’s causing arrhythmia.
- These may include blood thinners, calcium channel blockers, beta blockers and antiarrhythmics.
- Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). This is a device that monitors your heart rate and shocks the heart in case of irregular and dangerous heartbeats.
Get checked up for irregular heartbeat. Contact the New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center for an evaluation and treatment of arrhythmia in NYC.
If you have any questions for the best in class Manhattan cardiologist or would like to schedule a consultation or appointment please feel free to contact Dr. Steven Reisman of the New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center and indicate which Manhattan office (Upper East Side, Midtown Manhattan, or Wall Street / Financial District) you would like to see the cardiologist for arrhythmia treatment consultation.