Heart Disease Risk Factors at Emory

by June Bliwise

A healthy lifestyle can have a huge impact on your heart’s health. Moderate physical actvity, a diet low in saturated fat, and a limited intake of alcohol all contribute to a lower risk of heart disease and heart attack. One should manage cholesterol, weight, and blood pressure to reduce risk of heart disease after all, the heart is one of our most valuable muscles.

The heart muscle is made up of four chambers. AT the bottom are two ventricles, and at the top are two atrials. A heart beat occurs when the heart contracts do to the natural pacemaker, the sinoatrial, that is found in our heart. A glitch in this wiring cuases an irregular heart beat and this is what we term an arrythmia.

Arrythmias are usually not indicative of a serious heart condition but should be cuase for cencern if they are frequent or prolonged. Usually however, an arrythmia is due to caffiene, exercise, excitement, fear, or medication. In these instances a slight or occational disturbance in one’s regular heartbeat should not be a cause for concern.

Most heart rhythm disturbances are transitory and a doctor does not need to be seen about them. For example, exercise can speed up your heart rate as can too much caffeine and certain medications. Your heart rate may also speed up during times of fear or excitement. An arrhythmia becomes dangerous when it is frequent or chronic. The seriousness of an arrythmia depends not just on symptoms, like faintness or dizziness, but have more to do with the presence of important abnormal structural conditions of the heart and/or heart disease.

There are two types of arrhythmia one can suffer from. These two types are: atrial fibrillation, and ventricular fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is when your heart beats rapidly causing symptoms such as palpitations, rapid heart beat, chest discomfort, shortness of breath and dizziness. Ventricular fibrillation is an arrhythmia that originates in the ventricles or pumping chambers and usually occurs in people who have a damaged heart, frequently the result of a heart attack. Because ventricular fibrillation is so rapid and is occurring in a damaged heart, the heart may not function properly or efficiently and this arrhythmia can be fatal.

If one suffers form arrythmia there are many medical options one can seek. These include : pace makers to regulate the heart rate and beta blockers or similar drugs to reduce blood clots. In addition preventaitve lifestyle modifications in diet and exercise can also be beneficial.

Since it is difficult for the average person to know if their arrhythmia is dangerous cardiology specialists called electrophysiologists use the most advanced technology to detect, diagnose and treat arrhythmias. Arrhythmias that cannot be treated and controlled by medication, or by pacemakers can often be completely cured through a minimally invasive procedure called cardiac ablation.

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