Under ideal circumstances, your heart steadily pumps away — about 115,000 times a day — and circulates 2,000 gallons of oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood throughout your body. If there’s an irregularity in this steady pace, which we call an arrhythmia, you should sit up and take notice as some arrhythmias are more serious than others.
To help break down the differences in the many types of arrhythmias, the team here at Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists thought we’d spend a little time reviewing arrhythmias, in general, and which ones bear watching and treating.
To understand an arrythmia more clearly, it’s helpful to take a look at the anatomy of a normal heartbeat, which originates in the sinus node in your upper right atrium.
This group of cells acts as your heart’s pacemaker and creates electrical impulses that cause your upper atria to contract, sending the blood into your lower ventricles. More specifically, oxygen-depleted blood enters your right atrium, where it’s pumped down to your right ventricle and into your lungs where it picks up oxygen. Once oxygenated, your blood re-enters your heart through the left atrium and down through your left ventricle, where it’s pushed back out into your body.
Amazingly, this occurs 60-100 times per minute.
When you have an arrhythmia, there’s an issue in your heart that causes your beats to become irregular. In most cases, arrhythmias can be traced back to a problem in your sinus node, problems in your conduction pathways, or cells in your heart that set up alternate pacemakers.
The end results can be broken down into several arrhythmia categories, including:
Of this list, atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia in the United States, and experts predict that this type of arrhythmia will affect more than 12 million people by 2030.
Mild arrhythmias often don’t cause any symptoms and are often only detected during one of our examinations.
Moderate-to-severe arrhythmias, however, can lead to symptoms, such as:
Your symptoms depend upon whether your heart is racing too quickly, beating too slowly, or beating irregularly.
The seriousness of an arrhythmia also depends upon its origin. For example, if your ventricles start to beat erratically, this is a serious, and potentially life-threatening condition.
The bottom line is that any irregularity in your heart’s rhythm is concerning as an untreated arrhythmia can lead to heart attack, stroke, or heart failure. The good news is that if we detect an arrhythmia, we can take steps to manage the condition, such as:
The most important step is to come see us so that we can evaluate your heart’s rhythm to detect whether there’s an issue. To get started, contact our office in Mountain View, California, to set up an appointment.