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How to Recognize & Treat a Heart Arrhythmia

Learn how to recognize and treat a heart arrhythmia from Dr. Dennis Finkielstein in this Howcast video.


So what is an arrhythmia of the heart? Well, first of all, arrhythmia means no heart rhythm or arrhythmia, so I think usually we are talking about dysrhythmia or abnormal heart rhythm. The heart has a normal rhythm, with helps to control the heartbeat in a normally, synchronized fashion. And when that normal, synchronized fashion is disturbed, someone can be said to have an arrhythmia.

The first thing to note is that often times when people say they have an arrhythmia, they're really talking about a few extra heartbeats here or there, interspersed within a normal heart rhythm. And that's not usually what doctors are talking about when we mention arrhythmia. For doctors arrhythmias are irregular heart rhythms and they run a wide spectrum of severity, most of which are pretty benign or harmless. And some can be life threatening.

The most common arrhythmia are those coming from the top chambers of the heart, and luckily, they tend to be more benign, or less harmful. Arrhythmia's coming from the bottom chambers of the heart can be life threatening, and always need medical attention. Your doctor may want to check to see if you have an arrhythmia when you complain about things like palpitations, or an abnormal sense of heartbeat. The testing is pretty simple. Usually, the doctor will order a monitor, which is a device that can check your heart rhythm for 24 hours or longer.

The risk factors for developing an arrhythmia, or irregular heart rhythm, can be structural heart disease, where there's a problem with the way the heart is built or working. A ischemic heart disease, where you've had a heart attack from blocked arteries in the heart or congenital heart disease, problems from birth.

The treatment for heart disease can be pretty simple, such as life style modifications, in terms of decreasing the amount of alcohol or caffeine you take in, or lowering your basic stress level. Things like increasing exercise also help to decrease the frequency of arrhythmias.

Once your doctor diagnoses you with an arrhythmia or irregular heart rhythms, the treatments vary. Sometimes it's simple life style modifications and other times it requires a medication or procedure to help fix.

So those would the basic signs and symptoms of arrhythmias.

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