Do you feel that in your chest? Your heart is skipping a beat! Now, it may be because you’re in love, but there is a chance it could be something much more serious. Keep reading to find out what different types of arrhythmias are dangerous and which ones are not.
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Life Alert can get you help fast when your heart feels like it’s doing the chi-chi, but you may want to look into why this is happening since irregular heartbeat conditions, like atrial fibrillation, can threaten your heart health. The experts over at Everyday Health have your list of threatening and non-threatening heartbeats to be on the lookout for.
1. Atrial Fibrillation
The most common type of arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation, affects about 2.7 million people in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. Atrial fibrillation occurs when the heart’s upper chambers (the atria) begin to beat rapidly and irregularly. The condition itself isn’t life-threatening, but it increases the risk for stroke by allowing blood to pool and clot in the atria — increasing risk fivefold, says Hugh Calkins, MD, an electrophysiologist and director of the Cardiac Arrhythmia Service at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. Atrial fibrillation risk is lower before age 50 but then steadily increases with age. Blood thinners and medication to steady the heart rate and rhythm are mainstays of treatment. In some cases, a special procedure called an ablation, which purposely scars the defective part of the heart to prevent it from passing on unwanted signals, may be recommended.
Tachycardia occurs when your heart suddenly starts beating very fast. If it happens as a result of exercise, excitement, or fever, it’s usually not a cause for concern and doesn’t need treatment. But one type of arrhythmia called paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) is more dangerous. It creates extra heartbeats because electrical signals that move from the heart’s upper chambers to its lower chambers tend to loop back around to the upper chambers. This condition can cause sudden cardiac arrest if it affects the heart’s lower chambers, but it’s curable through ablation. Tachycardia is most common in children and young people, and is more common in women than men.
3. Ventricular Fibrillation
Ventricular fibrillation is the most deadly type of arrhythmia. It occurs when the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles) begin to quiver instead of pumping normally. Because these chambers handle most of the heavy lifting for the circulatory system, ventricular fibrillation causes blood flow to very nearly cease. “If it’s not shocked in a timely fashion — and we’re talking minutes — then the patient will die,” says Gordon Tomaselli, MD, professor of medicine and chief of cardiology at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. Ventricular fibrillation usually happens in people with some sort of underlying heart condition. Those at risk can be treated with medication or an implanted defibrillator that will shock the heart if it stops beating.
4. Premature Beats
Most irregular heart rhythms involve extra or skipped beats. These types of arrhythmias are harmless and usually don’t cause symptoms. People who do feel symptoms report fluttering in the chest or a feeling that their heart has skipped. Premature beats can occur in anyone, most often happen naturally, and don’t require treatment. But they also can happen as a result of heart disease, stress, over-exercising, or too much caffeine or nicotine. In those instances, you should talk with a cardiologist about your heart and any needed lifestyle changes.
Bradycardia is a type of arrhythmia that, for many people, is no big deal. It means your heart rate is slower than normal — fewer than 60 beats a minute for adults. Young people and others who are very physically fit may experience bradycardia because they’re in good shape, and for them it isn’t dangerous and doesn’t cause symptoms. But people can also have bradycardia if they’ve had a heart attack or if an underactive thyroid gland or aging has slowed the heart. In these situations, taking medication or having a pacemaker implanted may be needed. Bradycardia can also occur because of a nutritional imbalance. If this is the cause, your doctor may recommend a dietary supplement. In addition, the condition can be a side effect of medication, and in those cases a doctor may adjust your prescription.
6. Long QT Syndrome
A number of other disorders occur because of problems with the heart’s electrical system. Long QT syndrome, a hereditary disorder that usually affects children or young adults, slows the signal that causes the ventricles to contract. Another electrical signal problem, atrial flutter, happens when a single electrical wave circulates rapidly in the atrium, causing a very fast but steady heartbeat. Heart block involves weak or improperly conducted electrical signals from the upper chambers that can’t make it to the lower chambers, causing the heart to beat too slowly. These conditions can put you at risk for cardiac arrest. Treatment might involve medication, ablation, or an implanted device to correct the misfiring, such as a pacemaker or defibrillator.
Next time you feel a little quick step in your chest you’ll be better able to tell if your life is in danger or not. If you are suspicious of having some heart trouble, be sure to see your general practitioner immediately. However, if your heart starts to race at the thought of living alone, the cure for that is simple; get Life Alert Protection’s emergency pendant! Slip on their lightweight, waterproof pendant and in the event of a life threatening emergency, push the button on your pendant and summon emergency help, fast! With over 25 years of saving lives with their medical alert system, you can live alone without being alone, and Life Alert is a company you can trust with all your heart. Slow your heart rate and start living your life with confidence by having Life Alert! For a free brochure on all their heart-pounding protection packages, call 1-800-513-2934.
- Thompson, Dennis Jr. “6 Ways Your Heart Can Get Out of Rhythm.” Everyday Health. 6 July 2016. <http://www.everydayhealth.com/atrial-fibrillation/symptoms/ways-your-heart-can-get-out-of-rhythm/ >.