Guide To Arrhythmias
Diagram of female body
|Can Arrhythmias Be Prevented?
Some causes of arrhythmia are genetic, meaning you can do little about it - such as arrhythmia's caused by congenital (present at birth) heart problems. However most cases are caused by heart disease or are triggered by lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking. By eliminating the triggers and reducing your heart disease risk factors, you automatically reduce your arrhythmia risk factors. To do so:
Obesity: Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity has been linked in particular to atrial fibrillation.
Diet: Eat a healthy balanced diet which includes lots of fruit, vegetables, lean protein and 'good' carbs.
Exercise: Regular daily exercise strengthens and protects the heart.
Smoking: The rate of heart disease in women who smoke increases 6-fold (compared to 3-fold in men). It also can trigger an arrhythmia episode in some people.
Alcohol: Restrict yourself to one alcoholic drink a day (women) or two for men. This reduces your risk of many diseases, including heart disease. Drinking binges can lead to a sudden case of atrial fibrillation (see types of arrhythmias).
Seek Treatment For Existing Conditions
Know your arrhythmia risk factors. People with underlying heart disease and other conditions are more prone to developing heart rhythm irregularities. If you have been diagnosed with any of the following conditions make sure you seek treatment and manage the condition as best as you can:
1. Coronary Heart Disease (CHD): A type of heart disease caused by blockages in the arteries which supply blood to the heart.
2. Congenital Heart Disease: Problem with the structure of the heart, present at birth.
3. Congestive Heart Failure (CHF): Where the heart gradually fails to work efficiently. May be prompted by previous heart attacks, read about the causes of CHF.
4. Stroke: ‘Brain attack’ caused by a blockage in the artery supplying the brain. Read about reducing your stroke risk factors.
5. Atherosclerosis: Build up of fatty deposits in the arteries of the body.
6. Heart Valve Damage: Damage to the valves in the heart.
7. High Blood Pressure.
8. High Cholesterol.
Managing Your Condition
1. Have regular health screenings and get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked.
2. Inform yourself about all the available methods of heart testing and discuss them with your doctor.
3. Follow your treatment plan exactly and take your medications when prescribed.
4. Report any new symptoms or changes in symptoms as soon as possible.
5. Read about sudden cardiac arrest. If you are high risk, consider purchasing a home defibrillator.
Ask your doctor to help isolate potential triggers or times where your symptoms of arrhythmia become worse. This may involve stressful situations at work, home, or college. It may also be a personal relationship or conflict. Triggers could be stimulants like coffee, smoking and alcohol. By eliminating your triggers or dealing with them in a healthier way, you may be able to reduce and eliminate your symptoms. Common triggers include:
Natural Remedies: Avoid supplements which contain ephedrine or ephedra, these were used to promote weight loss and act as an energy boost. They can increase the risk of heart palpitations and for this reason the FDA pulled them from the shelves in 2004. However, it is still worth being aware of the ingredients in any herbal supplements you take.
Medications: About 50 FDA approved medications have the potential to cause arrhythmias in people with long QT syndrome (LQTS). Those medications include certain antidepressants, antibiotics, antihistamines, antifungals, diabetic medications (oral hypoglycemics), psychotropic drugs and even cholesterol drugs and water pills. If you have LQTS, always ask your doctor or pharmacist if the prescribed medication could aggravate the condition.
Stimulants: Like caffeine, nicotine and illegal drugs can cause palpitations and in a few cases may even eventually contribute to the development of arrhythmias. Cocaine and amphetamines accelerate the heart rate and can lead to a serious ventricular fibrillation and sudden death. Even one very heavy drinking session of alcohol can trigger an atrial fibrillation.
Stress: Stay happy. Stress can trigger strokes, heart attacks, stomach ulcers, cancers and even Alzheimer’s. It should be noted, that while stress and strong emotions (such as anxiety) may contribute to an episode of arrhythmia, it does not generally cause it. Read also, Is there an online test for stress? as well about the dangers of stress.
Fatigue: Extreme fatigue can trigger an episode of arrhythmia. It appears that fatigue can make the heart more susceptible to sudden spasms in an artery or to spontaneous abnormal occurrences.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Many studies show that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the number of arrhythmic events a person has, as well as reduce their risk of sudden cardiac death. Most Americans do not eat enough of this nutrient. If you have not been diagnosed with a heart condition, taking about 500mg a day may reduce your chance of developing fatal arrhythmias. People with underlying heart disease should take about 1000mg a day. This can be taken as a fish oil supplement or eaten as two portions of fatty fish a week (salmon,tuna, sardines).
Do you have a question on another subject? Check out, womens health questions.