The vast majority of arrhythmias do not cause any harm to the human body and, in most cases, they can be left untreated. If your doctor does discover you have an arrhythmia, he or she will need to find out if it is clinically significant.
Some arrhythmias simply reflect the normal processes of the heart, but those that are clinically significant can cause a variety of symptoms and put you at risk for more severe arrhythmias and medical complications in the future. Fortunately, if your arrhythmia is abnormal and clinically significant, your doctor can prescribe a treatment plan that can keep your heart as healthy as possible.
The term “arrhythmia” refers to any change from a normal sequence of electrical impulses. If an electrical impulse occurs too slow, fast, or erratically, it can cause the heart to beat too slowly, too quickly, or too erratically.
Unfortunately, when the heart can’t beat properly, it can’t pump blood to other parts of the body effectively and efficiently. When this occurs, other organs, including the brain, lungs, and kidneys will cease to function properly. Without medical intervention, they can shut down or sustain permanent damage.
There are many different types of arrhythmias, but they all share many of the same similarities. Arrhythmias can impact the heart in a myriad of ways and can interrupt normal functioning, causing noticeable symptoms.
Some of the most serious symptoms caused by arrhythmias include:
In the most extreme cases, a patient may experience fainting or sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), which is very dangerous and deadly. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, you should consult a healthcare professional immediately – you may have an arrhythmia.
When discussing treatment with your doctor, you will probably be asked to set some practical goals. For individuals with arrhythmias, especially those with AFib, the goal will primarily be to reduce the risk of stroke by preventing the formation of blood clots.
You will need to focus on treating the condition that may be causing the arrhythmia and restoring a normal heart rhythm (if possible). You can also take measures to reduce other risk factors for stroke and heart disease. Your particular treatment goals will depend on your health and the extent of your arrhythmia.
Part of your treatment plan may involve taking medication to control your arrhythmia. If you are prescribed medication, you should take it as prescribed, and you should never stop taking your medication without consulting your physician or healthcare provider first.
Be upfront about any side effects you may be experiencing while taking your medication and make sure your doctor knows about any other drugs or vitamins you are consuming, even if they are over-the-counter.
By taking the previously mentioned measures, you can get the most out of your medication and ensure you adhere to your plan of treatment.
It is important to know how to take your pulse, especially if you have an artificial pacemaker.
To take your pulse, you should place the second and third fingers of one hand on the inside of the wrist of the other hand. You can also take your pulse by placing the same fingers on the side of your neck, just below your jaw. Once you feel the pulse, you should count the number of beats in one full minute.
Keep a journal or record of your pulse that documents the day and time, as well as how you feel at the time. You can keep track of your blood pressure the same way.
If you have an irregular heartbeat, you should know there are certain substances that can contribute to your condition. Everyday substances, such as caffeine and cold and cough medications can alter your heart rate. The following substances can as well:
Ironically, antiarrhythmics used to treat arrhythmia can sometimes cause arrhythmia. For this reason, be sure to discuss any noticeable side effects with your doctor if you are prescribed medication for your arrhythmia.
Having an arrhythmia can increase your risk of stroke, cardiac arrest, and heart attack. For this reason, you should be sure to control any factors that may put you at further risk. You can work with your healthcare team to find out more about what measures you can take to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Your physician may recommend you reduce your blood pressure, consume a heart-healthy diet, and avoid smoking tobacco. You may also be asked to lose excess weight, control your cholesterol, and engage in regular physical activity.
If you have an arrhythmia, it is important to know that researchers are making progress as they continue to learn more about the condition. Being diagnosed can be overwhelming, and once you start your treatment plan, it is best to take things one day at a time.
It is normal to feel alone or that others around you don’t understand your condition. This happens primarily because others cannot see your symptoms so it can be extremely difficult for them to comprehend your struggle to function normally on occasions.
You can help others understand by educating them about your heart condition and asking them for emotional support.
If you have an arrhythmia, you may consider participating in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are scientific studies that help determine whether a drug is useful or harmful to individuals.
Clinical trials are necessary to advance medicine, and it may be possible for you to benefit from joining such a trial. Before scientists and doctors can begin a clinical trial for a treatment, device, or medication, it must show promising results in laboratory tests.