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|What Causes Arrhythmias?
An arrhythmia occurs when something disturbs the electrical impulses in the heart causing the heartbeat to slow down, speed up or in serious situations to stop altogether. While health disorders such as coronary heart disease (CHD) and diabetes are connected to arrhythmias, there are also thousands of substances that have the potential to trigger faulty electrical signals. In some cases the arrhythmia may even be present at birth (congenital). In this article we will look at the most common triggers and causes behind the various types of arrhythmias. Remember, at any time if you experience symptoms of arrhythmia ask your doctor to check it out. While many palpitations (another name for irregular heartbeats) are quite harmless, others are an indication of a potentially dangerous underlying condition.
Triggers That Can Affect Heart Rhythm
Thousands of substances can affect our heart rate - and while most do not cause arrhythmias, they can trigger an episode. If you receive an arrhythmia diagnosis it is a good idea to be aware of your exposure to these substances. Talk to your physician about how they may affect your symptoms, medications and overall health:
• Caffeine in coffee, sodas, teas and chocolate.
• Diet pills.
• Tobacco, including secondhand smoke.
• Herbal remedies which contain ephedrine or ephedra.
• Over the counter cough and cold medicines, particularly those containing pseudoephedrine. Brandnames in the U.S. include Contac Cold, Drixoral Decongestant Non-Drowsy, Elixsure Decongestant, Chlor Trimeton Nasal Decongestant, Nasofed, Seudotabs, Silfedrine, Sudafed, Sudafed 12-Hour, Sudafed 24-Hour, Sudodrin, SudoGest, SudoGest 12 Hour, Triaminic Softchews Allergy Congestion and Suphedrin. In the UK: Most of the Boots Pharmacy Cold & Flu Capsules, most of the Lemsip cold and flu medications; and most of the Congesteze and Nirolex cold and flu products.
• Bronchodilators (asthma treatment), both prescription and over the counter.
• Prescription drugs such as antipsychotics, antianxiety or antiarrhythmic medications.
• Car emissions.
• Paint thinners.
• Propane gas.
• Industrial pollution.
• Hazardous substances in the workplace such as carbon monoxide.
• Illegal drug use such as cocaine can trigger a dangerous arrhythmia.
• Food sensitivities (such as an allergy or sensitivity to soy products) can cause palpitations.
Medical Conditions Linked To Arrhythmias
• Heart attacks and CHD can cause scarring of heart tissue, and lead to problems with the transference of electrical impulses which travel from cell to cell in the heart.
• High blood pressure.
• Congestive heart failure.
• Congenital heart disease.
• Stroke and any heart damage as a result of stroke.
• Diabetes, particularly if not well managed.
• Overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).
• Prolonged, chronic stress.
• Electrical shock.
• Electrolyte imbalances in the blood, such as potassium or sodium.
• Valve disorders, although this is usually a hereditary condition.
• Excessive exercise may cause a temporary arrhythmia induced by the overproduction of adrenaline and cortisol (the so-called fight or flight hormones).
According to the American Heart Rhythm Foundation, the most common diseases listed as the primary cause for people hospitalized with atrial fibrillation were congestive heart failure (12 percent), followed by atrial fibrillation itself (11 percent), coronary heart disease (10 percent) and stroke (5 percent). See also, latest health statistics.
Know Your Risks: Arrhythmia risk factors
Can Arrhythmias be Prevented? Arrhythmia prevention
Need answers to other topics? Womens health questions
Useful Heart Friendly Tips
1. As palpitations can be linked to an overactive thyroid, ask your doctor to carry out a blood test to check for any hormone or thyroid imbalances.
2. Learn how to manage your stress because it can cause an attack. Meditation is an excellent way to relax, as well as taking calm, deep breaths every 20 minutes. Go for regular leisurely walks and breathe slowly and deeply as you do so. Read about the dangers of stress.
3. Folic acid, about 600 mcg daily, is a good way to help stabilize a heartbeat.
4. Taking a vitamin B complex everyday will help you combat stress and calm the nerves.
5. A pinch of cayenne pepper mixed in with a little water and swallowed can help regulate a heartbeat very quickly.