Heart arrhythmia is defined as an abnormal heartbeat, where the heart may beat too fast or too slow. These can be harmless in some situations. But for people suffering from a weak or damaged heart, this can develop into a more serious condition or even result in death. This is why it is important to understand heart arrhythmias, causes and risk factors.
The symptoms of heart arrhythmias can be confused with many different causes, which is why it is important to take note of any changes in your body.
Those suffering from heart arrhythmias may experience any, if not all, of the following symptoms:
- A racing heartbeat or a flutter in the chest
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Fainting or near fainting (or syncope)
Treatment depends on the type of heart arrhythmia. Living a healthy lifestyle such as eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, exercising moderately, and drinking lots of water a day can help reduce the risk of heart arrhythmia.
Heart arrhythmias, causes and risk factors: Who is at risk?
The causes of heart arrhythmias may stem from certain lifestyle habits, congenital conditions, and other factors.
There are various causes of heart arrhythmias, such as:
- A heart attack
- Blocked arteries, connected to coronary artery disease
- Scarring of heart tissue caused by a previous heart attack
- Thyroid disorders
- Sleep apnea
- Cardiomyopathy (due to diabetes or high blood pressure), which may affect the structure of the heart
There are, of course, other things that can cause heart arrhythmias, and some of these are linked to one’s lifestyle:
- Drinking too much caffeine
- Consuming too much alcohol
- Smoking and nicotine replacement products
- Anxiety or stress
- Drug abuse, especially cocaine
- Taking certain supplements and medications such as over-the counter allergy and cold drugs, and even nutritional supplements
Are you more susceptible to the condition?
Heart arrhythmias usually affect the elderly and those with certain heart conditions, but it can occur even in those in good health. Certain conditions may increase your risk of heart arrhythmias. Among these are the following:
Coronary artery disease, other heart problems, and previous heart surgery
Any ailment or sickness that involves the heart such as narrowed heart arteries, abnormal heart valves, heart attack, cardiomyopathy, prior heart surgery, and other heart damage may increase your risk of heart arrhythmias.
High blood pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension can increase your risk of developing coronary artery disease and can also cause the walls of your left ventricle to become thick and sticky.
Congenital heart disease
Being born with a heart abnormality can change the rhythm of your heart.
Having an overactive thyroid gland can increase your risk of heart arrhythmias.
If not managed properly, diabetes can lead to coronary artery disease or high blood pressure, which greatly increase the risk of heart arrhythmias. Low blood sugar (related to diabetes treatment) can also trigger arrhythmias in addition to other symptoms: tremor, confusion, or weakness.
Obstructive sleep apnea
If your breathing is interrupted during sleep, you may suffer from atrial fibrillation or bradycardia, which are types of heart arrhythmias.
There are substances in your blood called electrolytes – sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium – that can trigger the electrical impulses in your heart.
If levels run too low or too high, from dietary sources or side effects of medication, your chances of getting heart arrhythmias may increase.
Meanwhile, other types of heart arrhythmias can increase your risk of developing other conditions. This is why understanding heart arrhythmias, causes and risk factors are crucial in preventing more serious conditions that may develop over time.
Heart arrhythmias may increase your risk of the following conditions.
Heart arrhythmias are also linked to an increased risk of blood clots. If a clot dislodges, this may flow from your heart to your brain, causing a stroke.
If you are 65 years old or older, your risk of having heart arrhythmias is greater, especially if you have a pre-existing heart condition.
For treatment, there are certain medications such as blood thinners, which can lower your risk of stroke or damage to your organs due to blood clots. Depending on your type of heart arrhythmias, your doctor can prescribe a blood-thinning medication that can work for you.
When your heart pumps irregularly because of a type of heart arrhythmia such as atrial fibrillation, this may result in heart failure. Sometimes, controlling the rate of the arrhythmias can decrease your risk of heart failure.
Heart arrhythmias, causes and risk factors: Can you prevent it?
Fortunately, heart arrhythmias can be prevented and/or managed. You can reduce your risk by taking better care of your health, which can also prevent you from developing heart disease and other more serious conditions.
Here are some ways to reduce your risk:
- Eat a balanced diet. Incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet. If you are a bit older, eat less red meat.
- Avoid drinking and smoking.
- Exercise regularly. Walk around your neighborhood, attend yoga classes, skip rope at home, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. These small activities can greatly reduce your risk of heart arrhythmias.
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep
- Avoid anxiety and emotional stress.
- Use over-the-counter medications with caution. Always consult your doctor.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight or underweight, consult your doctor to determine how you can achieve or maintain healthy body weight.
In many cases, heart arrhythmias are harmless, treatable and manageable.
By adopting a healthier lifestyle, consulting your doctor, and understanding the nature of arrhythmias, causes and risk factors included, you can prevent the condition from disrupting your daily life or developing into something more serious.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.