Like any other muscle in our body, the heart needs to be taken care of. Before exercise we stretch and lossen up our muscles to prevent injury to them and although the precuationary measures we take for our heart are different, they are still important. To lower one’s risk of heart disease one should make sure to have low cholesterol and blood pressure, moderate amounts of physical activity, and one should refrain from smoking tobacco or drinking excessively.
Why? Well the heart works like a pump, and is divided into four chambers : two atria at the top of the heart and two ventricles at the bottom. The heart beats (contracts) when an electrical impulse from our heart’s “natural pacemaker”, the sinoatrial, moves through it. But what happens if there is a glitch in the heart’s complicated “wiring” system causing it to “misfire”? The result can be an abnormal heart rhythm; officially this is called an arrhythmia.
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 fleeting and are nothing to worry about. For example, during times of fear or excitement it is normal for you to feel your heart “skip” a beat. Exercise can also speed up your heart rate as can too much caffeine and certain medications. When an arrhythmia becomes dangerous is when it is frequent or chronic. The consequences of arrhythmias usually depend not only on symptoms they can cause like faintness or dizziness, but also on the presence of important abnormal structural conditions of the heart and/or heart disease.
The two type of Arrythmia that patients experience is either ventricle firbrilation or atrial fibrilation. Ventricular fibrillation is extremely serious because it usually occurs in people who have a damaged heart, such as those who have had 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. Atrial fibrilation is when beats rapidly causing symptoms like chest discomfort, shortness of breath, palpitations, rapid heart beat,and dizziness and tends ot be less serious.
Besides lifestyle changes medication can also help with these abnormal heart rhythms. Medications called beta blockers or drugs to reduce the risk of blood clots in patients as well as pacemakers to monitor and regulate the rhythm of the heart may also be used.
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.