What are cardiac arrhythmias?

A cardiac arrhythmia is an abnormal and irregular heartbeat. Heart arrhythmia can either be too slow or too fast. Although at times, heart arrhythmias can be harmless; in some instances, it can become life-threatening.

What are the signs of heart arrhythmias?

In most cases, there are no signs of heart arrhythmia, and you may be unaware of your condition up until your appointment with the cardiologist. If you do notice signs of heart arrhythmia, these would include:

  • Fluttering within your chest
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Sweats

What are some of the reasons for heart arrhythmias?

Ventricular tachycardia, atrial tachycardia, atrial fibrillation, heart block and atrial flutter are all different forms of heart arrhythmias.

  • Ventricular tachycardia: Ventricular tachycardia is a form of heart arrhythmia that occurs there’s irregular electrical activity in your ventricles.
  • Atrial tachycardia: Atrial tachycardia is another form of heart arrhythmia that forms in the top chambers of your heart, called the atria. When this type of heart arrhythmia occurs, your heart beats faster than usual.
  • Atrial fibrillation: When atrial fibrillation occurs, your atria beat irregularly and remain out of sync with your ventricles.
  • Heart block: A heart block occurs when the electrical signals between your atria and ventricles are blocked. A heart block causes your heart to beat at a snail’s pace.
  • Atrial flutter: An atrial flutter results in a rapid heartbeat and occurs when the top chambers of your heart beat faster than usual.

Various conditions can cause heart arrhythmias that include:

  • Acute heart failure
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Hypertension
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Sleep apnoea

The substances that contribute to heart arrhythmia are:

  • Coffee or caffeinated beverages
  • Tobacco and alcohol
  • High blood pressure beta-blockers

What does the diagnosis for heart arrhythmia involve?

Before Dr Xana performs surgery or prescribes medication, he conducts a medical exam to check your heart rhythms for signs of heart arrhythmia. Other diagnostic tests include:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Echocardiogram
  • X-ray
  • Catheterisation

How does my cardiologist treat heart arrhythmia?

Treatment depends on how severe your arrhythmia is. Pacemakers, medication and vagal manoeuvres form part of treatment for heart arrhythmias. If there’s no underlying cause for bradycardia (slow heartbeat), your cardiologist will resolve your condition through the implantation of a pacemaker.

With medication, your life expectancy increases, and there's a reduced risk of heart failure or stroke. Specific cardiovascular medications such as beta or calcium channel blockers slow the progression of coronary heart diseases and resolve heart arrhythmia. Medication for heart arrhythmia, however, depends on your medical history, allergies, chronic medication and supplements.

Dr Xana recommends lifestyle changes that include exercise and a healthy diet to minimise or manage heart arrhythmias.