Abnormal Heart Rhythms (Arrhythmias)

Your heart keeps you alive by pumping blood around your body .  The heart is made up of four chambers namely two upper chambers (known as the atria) and two lower chambers (known as the ventricles).  The resting heart pumps at a rate of between 60-100 beats a minute (known as your pulse rate).  This heart rhythm is controlled by a pacemaker (called the sinus node) located in the right atrium by sending electrical impulses to make the heart muscle contract and relax and pump the blood in a coordinated manner.  When the atria contract, the ventricles relax and fill with blood pumped from the atria.

The electrical impulses from the sinus node goes to the Atrioventricular (AV) node which then makes the ventricles contract and pump the blood either to the lungs or to the rest of the body.  In a healthy heart, this process usually goes smoothly, resulting in a normal resting heart rate of 60 to 100 beats a minute in a regular manner which can be measure on a heart tracing called ElectroCardioGram (ECG).

Click to view AllianceForAgingResearch video on Living with Arrhythmias

Abnormal Heart Rhythm (Arrhythmias)

Heart rhythm problems (known as heart arrhythmias) occur when the electrical impulses do not work properly resulting in your heart either beating too fast, too slow or irregularly.  Some of the common arrhythmias include

1. Premature Heart Beats

A premature heartbeat is where there is an extra beat. Although it is usually harmless, it may trigger a more serious arrhythmia.  Premature heartbeats may occur during rest or caused by stress, over exertion or strong stimulants such as caffeine or smoking.

2. Bradycardia (abnormally slow heart rate less than 60 beats per minute)

Slow heart beat can a sign of a very fit athlete.  It can also be associated with some heart or hypertension medication.  There are however, 2 conditions of bradycardia which require treatment

  • Sick sinus syndrome
  • Conduction heart block

3. Tachycardia (abnormally fast heart rate more than 100 beats per minute)

The heart normally beats faster when we are scared, anxious or exercising.  There are several condition of tachycardia which require treatment

  • Atrial Fibrillation (most common)
  • Atrial Flutter
  • Supraventricular Tachycardia
  • Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome
  • Ventricular Tachycardia
  • Ventricular Fibrillation

Causes or Risk Factors for Arrhythmias

Why do Arrhythmias need to be treated?

Arrhythmias need to treated to prevent

  • Feeling breathless, weak or exhausted
  • Feeling faint or having blackouts
  • Reduced exercise tolerance or profuse sweating
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Sudden death

What you can do to reduce the risk

  • Lead a wholesome lifestyle by eating a healthy diet low in fat, salt and sugar.
  • Do regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight for your height and age (optimum BMI)
  • Take caffeine and alcohol in moderation
  • Ensure you have good sleeping habits and adequate sleep
  • Avoid or stop smoking
  • Avoid stress and try to learn to relax your mind and soul

Remember to keep your follow-up appointments and do your heart & blood tests regularly to monitor your heart condition

Disclaimer. TELEME blog posts contains general information about health conditions and treatments. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. 

If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from your doctor or other professional healthcare providers. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

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