Based on a national survey by the Department of Health, 2% of Filipinos above 70 years of age die from heart arrhythmias or irregular heart beats.
This is caused by pre-existing conditions such as coronary heart disease, electrolyte imbalances in the blood caused by potassium or sodium, injury from heart attack, and other changes in the heart muscle like those caused after heart surgery.
Surprisingly, heart arrhythmias can also occur in normal and healthy hearts.
Many ask, “What are the types of heart arrhythmias and their symptoms?”
There are many different types, and their symptoms include:
- heart palpitations
- dizziness or light-headedness
- shortness of breath
- fainting spells
- chest discomfort
- even weakness or fatigue
But to better understand this condition and to know how it is treated, let us answer one of the most important questions, “What are the types of heart arrhythmias?”
What are the types of heart arrhythmias?
There are many types of heart arrhythmias, which differ in causes and severity.
In general, arrhythmias can be divided into two major categories: tachyarrhythmias in which the heart beats faster than the normal, and bradyarrhythmias in which the heart beats slower than the normal.
Bradyarrhtymias are usually caused by disease in the heart’s electrical conduction system, these are slow heart rhythms that include sinus node dysfunction and a heart block.
Types of Tachyarrhythmias
- Premature atrial contractions. Originating from the atria or the upper chambers of the heart, premature atrial contractions are early extra beats that are quite harmless and don’t require treatment. Usually a trigger or stimulant is identified and avoiding these is all that’s needed to prevent this type of heart arrhythmia.
- Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs). PVCs are the most common of heart arrhythmias and occur in people with or without heart disease. This type is described as a “skipped heartbeat” and most experience it. It can be linked to stress, consuming too much nicotine or caffeine, or in some cases, too much exercise. PVCs can also be caused by an electrolyte imbalance or a heart disease. These are harmless in some cases and need no medical treatment. But if the PVCs are caused by another heart condition, doctors will treat that condition.
- Atrial flutter. This is caused by one or many rapid circuits in the atrium. Usually more regular and organized than atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter occurs in people who have heart disease or who have had recent heart surgery. This eventually turns into atrial fibrillation.
- Atrial fibrillation. A very common type of heart arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation affects the elderly and is due to the atria contracting abnormally.
- Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT). Originating from above the ventricles, PSVT is a rapid heart rate accompanied by a regular rhythm, and it begins and ends immediately. There are two main types of PSVT: accessory path tachycardias and AV nodal reentrant tachycardias.
- Accessory pathway tachycardias. Rapid heart rate is caused when impulses travel through abnormal pathways between the ventricles and the atria.
- AV nodal reentrant tachycardia. Similar to accessory pathway tachycardias , AV nodal reentrant tachycardia may cause heart failure, palpitations, or even fainting. In some cases, no medical treatment is needed as the affected individual can use simple maneuvers such as proper breathing and bearing down to temper his heart rate. Other cases require medical treatment, and drugs may be prescribed to regulate heart rhythm.
- Ventricular tachycardia (V-tach). Originating from the lower chambers of the heart, V-tach is a rapid heart rhythm that prevents the heart from filling up with blood. This is an emergency situation immediately requires immediate medical attention and care.
- Ventricular fibrillation. Because of its erratic and disorganized firing of impulses, the heart’s ventricles have a difficult time pumping blood into the body. This delicate and dangerous condition requires immediate medical attention and care.
- Long QT syndrome. The QT interval is described as the measurement on the electrocardiogram that shows the time electrical impulses fire and then recharge. This represents the time the heart muscle contracts and then recovers. If the QT interval becomes longer than normal, then this may hint at a possible life-threatening condition. This can cause the sudden death in young people, and can only be treated with the use of a pacemaker, electrical cardioversion, ablation therapy, or implanted cardioverter/ defibrillator.
Types of Bradyarrhythmias
- Sinus node dysfunction. This is a slow heart rhythm that is caused by the abnormal SA (sinus) node. For SAs that cause symptoms, such as light-headedness, dizziness, fainting, or syncope, a pacemaker is required.
- Heart block. This is the complete block of the electrical impulse that goes from the sinus mode to the ventricles. People suffering from this condition can experience an irregular heartbeat or a slow-beating heart. Those with heart blocks are often treated with a pacemaker.
How to Treat Heart Arrhythmias
After knowing what are the types of heart arrhythmias, it’s important to know how you can treat your condition. Depending on the type of heart arrhythmia or the severity of the condition, doctors and health care professionals may prescribe treatment that entails undergoing surgery, taking medication, or changing habits in your lifestyle.
Heart arrhythmias – whether mild or serious – are not to be neglected. If you feel an irregular skip in your heartbeat or feel that your heartbeat is slowing down or speeding up, it is advised that you consult your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.