About Your Rhythm
What Is an Arrhythmia?
An arrhythmia (ah-RITH-me-ah) is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm. A heartbeat that is too fast is called tachycardia (TAK-ih-KAR-de-ah). A heartbeat that is too slow is called bradycardia (bray-de-KAR-de-ah).
Most arrhythmias are harmless, but some can be serious or even life threatening. During an arrhythmia, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body. Lack of blood flow can damage the brain, heart, and other organs. In the United States, more than 850,000 people are hospitalized for an arrhythmia each year.
What causes an arrhythmia?
Many different factors may cause this abnormal heartbeat. These include:
- Coronary artery disease.
- Electrolyte imbalances in your blood (such as sodium or potassium).
- Changes in your heart muscle.
- Injury from a heart attack.
- Healing process after heart surgery.
- Irregular heart rhythms can also occur in “normal, healthy” hearts.
How to Prevent an Arrhythmia
If you notice that your arrhythmia occurs more often with certain activities, you should avoid them.
- If you smoke, stop.
- Limit your intake of alcohol.
- Limit or stop using caffeine.
- Avoid stimulants used in cough and cold medications.
Outlook for Someone With an Irregular Heartbeat
The outlook for a person who has an arrhythmia depends on the type and severity of it. Even serious arrhythmias often have successful treatment. Most people who have an irregular heartbeat are able to live normal, healthy lives.
Schedule a Consultation
If you suffer from an arrhythmia and would like to see if you are a candidate for treatment, call 205.510.5000 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Macy C. Smith.