Is Your Heart Beat Irregular?


Filed under Health & Wellness

Do you get an occasional fluttering in your chest, or sometimes experience a racing heart beat or slow heart beat that comes on suddenly then goes away just as fast as it came? For most people, these occasional, irregular heart beats are common and harmless especially if your heart is otherwise normal. However when these irregular heart beats (or heart rhythms) are combined with a diagnosis of heart failure, they can be serious and if left untreated can make heart failure worse.

If you’ve been experiencing these symptoms with some regularity, make an appointment with a doctor who will check to see if you’re suffering from heart failure, a condition in which the heart doesn’t pump blood through the body as well as it should.

Diagnosing Heart Rhythm Problems

The first thing your doctor will do is order an electrocardiogram (ECG) which records the electrical activity in your heart. ECG adhesive patches (electrodes) will be placed on your chest, arms and legs. The patches are attached to wires and connected to a machine that records the electrical activity in your heart on graph paper.

If no explanation for your heart rhythm irregularities turn up on the ECG, your doctor may ask you to wear a Holter Monitor, a small portable device used to make a tape recording of your heart beats over a longer period of time. Patients typically wear the device for 24 to 48 hours and keep a diary of their symptoms. After the test is done, the tape is sent to the lab for analysis and an explanation for the heart beat irregularities may become apparent. Most importantly, expect to have pictures of your heart made, especially an echocardiogram or ‘sono’ of your heart. If your heart function is otherwise normal, nothing else may be required but if weakened or abnormal heart function is noted, there may be a need to do more testing and consider certain therapies.

Other tests that may be used to diagnose heart rhythm problems include: the tilt table test which involves monitoring a patient’s ECG and blood pressure while they’re in different positions; and an Electrophysiology (EP) Study which is a test in which special catheters (thin insulated wires) are inserted into a blood vessel and threaded into the heart to record its electrical activity. During an EP study, the doctor will try to provoke a heart rhythm problem to pinpoint the starting location in the heart and evaluate how the patient responds to the abnormal rhythm.

Treating Heart Rhythm Problems

After your heart rhythm problem has been diagnosed, your doctor will develop a treatment plan that is right for you. It may include medicines such as anticoagulants (blood thinners) that help prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of stroke, an implantable device, such as a cardiac pacemaker which is used to treat slow heart beats or a implantable cardioverter defibrillator ICD) which is used to treat very fast heart beats, or surgery.

To minimize heart rhythm problems it is highly recommended that you consult your doctor or nurse before taking over the counter remedies (including nutrient supplements); you should also reduce or eliminate your caffeine intake, drink less alcohol, quit smoking, get more sleep, start an exercise program after consultation with your doctor or nurse, and take all your medicines as prescribed. If it is discovered that in addition to the heart rhythm problems that there is also evidence of heart failure, additional treatment recommendations may be necessary.

Article courtesy of ARAcontent

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