Arrhythmias are disturbances in heart rhythm. Usually, the heart beats between 60 and 100 times per minute. In case of arrhythmia, the heart beats either too quickly (tachycardia), or too slowly (bradycardia), or in an anarchic way. i-Virtual tells you all about this increasingly common pathology.
What is called heart arrhythmias?
The beating of the heart is triggered by the pumping action of this organ. The heart muscle’s natural pacemaker, called the “sinus node” or “sinoatrial node” triggers electrical impulses causing the heart’s atria and ventricles to contract. It is these small discharges that allow the blood to be transported to the lungs and then through the body. This circuit takes place in a certain order and following a regular frequency. Heart rate varies from person to person. Heart rhythm disorders can cause different health problems.
⇒ Heartbeats are too slow if they are less than 60 beats per minute. This arrhythmia is called bradycardia.
⇒ If the rate is too fast, more than 100 beats per minute, it is tachycardia.
Sometimes heart rhythm irregularities are benign. This is the case with most extrasystoles, for example manifesting as an early beat, followed by a slightly longer interval before returning to a normal rhythm.
There are several types of bradycardia and tachycardia.
The main forms of bradycardia are:
- Sick sinus syndrome: dysfunction of the heart’s natural pacemaker resulting in a significant slowing of the heartbeat.
- Heart block: slowing down or interruption of the electrical signal sent to the lower chambers of the heart responsible for expelling blood into the body (the ventricles).
The main forms of tachycardia are:
- Atrial fibrillation: this is the most common form of tachycardia. It is characterized by a series of very rapid contractions of the atria, causing a heart rhythm disorder.
- Atrial flutter: an additional or early electrical impulse propagates around the atria and follows a different path from a so-called “normal” impulse.
- Ventricular tachycardia: excessively rapid contraction of the ventricles.
- Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT): very high heart rate, between 140 and 250 beats per minute. TSVP most often affects young people and those born with an extra electrical circuit or pathway between the atria and the ventricles.
- Palpitations and extrasystoles.
The main symptoms of heart arrhythmias are:
- Loss of consciousness,
- Unusual shortness of breath,
- Disorders of consciousness,
- Dizziness or loss of balance,
Conditions can be acute (sudden) or chronic (lasting). In case of complication, blood clots can form and lead to a stroke. Ventricular fibrillation can cause heart attack.
What are the causes of heart rhythm disorders?
Heart arrhythmias are on the rise, particularly due to the aging of the population. Age is indeed one of the first causes of heart arrhythmias. Other factors of heart rhythm irregularities are:
- Valve disease,
- Previous heart attack,
- Taking certain medications,
- Other pathologies: high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, etc.
- Respiratory conditions such as asthma, pulmonary embolism,
- Coronary artery disease (used to supply the heart with blood),
- Excessive consumption of stimulating substances (coffee, tobacco, alcohol, etc.).
What are the main treatments for heart arrhythmias?
Doctors favor a lifestyle and dietary approach in the case of benign tachycardia. It’s about adapting your lifestyle and diet to reduce the risk of complications.
A person suffering from heart rhythm disorders can apply these few tips:
- Have a good restful sleep,
- Practice regular physical activity,
- Limit stimulants such as coffee or alcohol,
- Reduce your salt consumption: aggravating factor of the pathology,
- Consume high-fat foods in moderation to limit overweight, excess cholesterol, diabetes.
In the event of severe arrhythmias, medical treatments aim to relieve symptoms and prevent complications, such as the formation of blood clots and the risk of cardiac arrest.
Medications to regulate the rhythm, strengthen the heart, and blood thinners may be prescribed. The most commonly used are antiarrhythmics, beta-blockers and amiodarone.
In some cases, the installation of a pacemaker or an automatic defibrillator is necessary, or even a surgical operation.
How to diagnose and monitor heart rhythm disorders?
The diagnosis is primarily guided by an initial clinical examination and an analysis of the symptoms described by the patient. A resting electrocardiogram (ECG) is performed. This is the standard examination for exploring heart arrhythmias. It will make it possible to study the frequency, regularity and synchronization of the movements of the atria and ventricles.
But the electrocardiogram does not always make it possible to detect a pathology and additional examinations may be necessary, such as a cardiac Holter, an ECG with test, an electrophysiological exploration, a blood test, cardiac Doppler echo, myocardial scintigraphy MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or even coronary angiography.
On a daily basis, it is essential to regularly monitor your pulse and blood pressure. This is even more true for people with a pacemaker. The standards are 60 to 100 heartbeats per minute for an adult at rest. The frequency is often higher in women than in men. Athletes have a lower heart rate, which can go down to 40 beats per minute.
The aging of the population and our current stressful lifestyles increase the risks of heart rhythm disorders. The arrhythmia must be monitored to prevent complications, the risk of stroke or heart attack. i-Virtual has a solution, Caducy, that allows you to control your heart rate anytime and anywhere with just a smartphone. Something to reassure your loved ones and yourself!