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Heart Arrhythmia Causes and Treatments

December 9th 2005

Heart Arrhythmia Causes and Treatments

Heart Arrhythmia

Heart arrhythmias are caused when electrical impulses in your heart that coordinate the heartbeat do not function properly or are out of sync.  The heart can beat too fast or too slow or just irregularly. 

Considering that your heart beats 100,000 times per day an arrhythmia is not that uncommon.  Most arrhythmias are harmless.  People may feel a brief irregular heartbeat that feels like it skipped, or in some cases like your heart is racing.  It is important to have a doctor make that diagnosis because some arrhythmias can be dangerous and life threatening. 

Some arrhythmias may not produce any signs or symptoms. Sometimes you can detect a fluttering in the chest, or a racing or slow heartbeat.  There could be chest pain or a shortness of breath.  In some cases the sufferer could experience lightheadedness, dizziness or a fainting sensation (syncope) or near fainting. 


Just because you feel a symptom does not mean you have a life threatening condition and in some cases people who have no symptoms have a life threatening arrhythmia.  There are some common causes for heart arrhythmias including heart disease, obesity, smoking and damage to the heart due to heart attack.  Some prescription drugs can cause arrhythmia. 

An electrolyte imbalance can cause arrhythmias.  An imbalance in potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium can cause an electrolyte imbalance.  Some supplements including ephedra can also increase arrhythmia risk.  Some over the counter cold medicines can also cause the problem.

There are some genetic problems that can arrhythmia.  Diabetes can increase the risk.  High blood pressure will increase the risk and so will obstructive sleep apnea.  This is a common condition that affects 1 in 5 men and 1 in 10 women.  Most sufferers do not realize they have the condition because it occurs when they are asleep.

According to the Mayo Clinic you should seek medical attention if you feel premature beats, or you may feel that your heart is racing or beating too slowly.  You should also seek medical attention if you have a shortness of breath or wheezing, weakness or dizziness or feel like you are about to faint.  Arrhythmias can cause sudden death and a person that suffers from one may collapse and soon stop breathing.  Call 9-11 and begin CPR.

There are medications doctors can prescribe to treat arrhythmias.  You may also perform Vagal maneuvers.  These include holding your breath and straining, dunking your face in ice water or coughing. These maneuvers can cause your heart beat to slow down if you are experiencing a rapid beat.

Some doctors may prescribe beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, potassium channel blockers and digitalis.  It all depends on your arrhythmia.  In some cases surgery may be required or the implantation of a pacemaker. 

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By Dan Wilson
Best Syndication Staff Writer

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