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November 2021

A Hop, Skip, and a Jump: Do You Have an Irregular Heartbeat?

From time to time, your heart may flutter when you’re excited, nervous, or exercising hard. And if your heart’s offbeat beat—also called an arrhythmia—goes away as quickly as it came about, it might seem like no cause for concern. But the whole picture is a little more complicated. It’s a good idea to know when that fleeting flutter may be putting your health at risk.

A circuitry problem

To have a healthy, regular heartbeat, the heart's 4 chambers must work in harmony with one another. A heartbeat is produced when an electrical signal travels through these chambers. If something goes wrong with this signal, your heartbeat may speed up, slow down, or seem out of sync.

Heart disease and high blood pressure are common risk factors for arrhythmia. Other risk factors include:

●       Congenital heart conditions

●       Alcohol

●       Cigarettes

●       Illegal drugs

●       Some heart medicines

When arrhythmias spell danger

An irregular heartbeat sometimes needs no treatment. But if left untreated, it may lead to larger problems that can be too dangerous to ignore, such as heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. Talk with your healthcare provider if you notice an irregular heartbeat and any of the following symptoms:

●       Chest pain

●       Shortness of breath

●       Fainting

●       Light-headedness

●       Fatigue

It’s also important to talk with your provider if you have a history of heart disease and have noticed that you sometimes have an irregular heartbeat.

Ways to treat the beat

Treatments depend on the type of arrhythmia that you have. These tips may help you manage the condition:

●      Eat a heart-healthy diet and exercise regularly.

●       Avoid tobacco smoke. Talk with your healthcare provider about strategies for keeping other health conditions under control.

 

 

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2021
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