What causes an arrhythmia?
Arrhythmias may be caused by many different factors, including:
- Coronary artery disease
- Electrolyte imbalances in your blood (such as sodium or potassium).
- Changes in your heart muscle.
- Injury from a heart attack
- Healing process after heart surgery.
What are the symptoms of arrhythmias?
An arrhythmia can be silent and not cause any symptoms. A doctor can detect an irregular heartbeat during a physical exam by taking your pulse or through an electrocardiogram (ECG).
When symptoms occur, they may include:
- Palpitations (a feeling of skipped heart beats, fluttering or "flip-flops," or feeling that your heart is "running away").
- Pounding in your chest.
- Dizziness or feeling light-headed.
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest discomfort.
- Weakness or fatigue (feeling very tired).
What lifestyle changes should be made?
- If you notice that your irregular heart rhythm occurs more often with certain activities, you should avoid them.
- If you smoke, stop.
- Limit your intake of alcohol.
- Limit or stop using caffeine. Some people are sensitive to caffeine and may notice more symptoms when using caffeine products (such as tea, coffee, colas and some over-the-counter medications).
- Stay away from stimulants used in cough and cold medications. Some such medications contain ingredients that promote irregular heart rhythms. Read the label and ask your doctor or pharmacist what medication would be best for you.
What is a pacemaker?
A pacemaker is a device that sends small electrical impulses to the heart muscle to maintain a suitable heart rate. Pacemakers primarily prevent the heart from beating too slowly. The pacemaker has a pulse generator (which houses the battery and a tiny computer) and leads (wires) that send impulses from the pulse generator to the heart muscle. Newer pacemakers have many sophisticated features that are designed to help manage arrhythmias and optimize heart-rate-related function as much as possible.