Guide To Irregular Heartbeats
|Who Is Likely To Develop Arrhythmias?
A number of factors can increase your overall chance of developing an arrhythmia. These include:
People with underlying heart disease, particularly coronary heart disease (CHD), are more likely to develop arrhythmias. Having narrowed arteries, coronary bypass surgery, heart attacks and cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease) also increases your chance of developing all types of arrhythmia.
Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital means you are born with it. Some people are born with abnormalities in the structure of their heart. Any abnormality may affect the rhythm of your heart.
Prolonged or chronic high blood pressure (hypertension) increases your heart disease risk factors. It can cause the left ventricle wall of the heart to become stiff and thick, one of the main causes of heart failure. It can also change how electrical impulses travel through the heart.
Nearly half of all women develop abnormal heartbeats during their pregnancy. The vast majority produces no arrhythmia symptoms and it is only discovered during a routine prenatal test. Most cases are unlikely to require treatment and the heart rate returns to normal naturally after childbirth. If symptoms do worsen arrhythmia treatment in the form of antiarrhythmic medication may be considered. See also our article, heart disease in pregnant women.
If you suffer from an overactive thyroid (a condition known as hyperthyroidism), your body produces too much thyroid hormone. This can have the affect of causing fast or irregular heartbeats which are linked to atrial fibrillation. If you produce too little of the hormone (hypothyroidism) this can slow down the heartbeat, causing bradycardia arrhythmias. Hypothyroidism is also linked to congestive heart failure.
People with uncontrolled (not well managed) diabetes are at increased risk of CHD and hypertension. In addition, low blood sugar levels can trigger an arrhythmia episode. Studies show that atrial fibrillation is 44 percent more common in women with type 2 diabetes than those without the disease. This risk does not seem to translate to men. Talk to your doctor about screening for prediabetes, particularly if you display any of the symptoms of diabetes.
Obesity in women. Obesity increases the chance of developing atrial fibrillation by 49 percent, according to research published by St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York. Doctors analyzed data from 16 relevant studies involving over 123,000 people from America and Europe. It appears that the risk of arrhythmia is directly related to body mass index (BMI). This association is the same for both genders.
Sleep apnea is a condition where your breathing pauses during sleep. Each pause can last a few seconds to a few minutes and can occur 5 to 30 times an hour. Many people are unaware they have the condition. Recent research by the Saint Louis University discovered that 40 percent of patients with ventricular premature contraction (a type of arrhythmia) suffer sleep apnea and did not realize it. The condition has also been linked to bradycardia and bursts of atrial fibrillation.
Anorexia is an eating disorder in which people, usually young women, deliberately starve themselves. They may also diet and exercise too much or use other methods to lose weight. Arrhythmias are common in this risk group and can prove fatal.
For information on substances which can affect the heart's rhythm, see causes of arrhythmias. These include smoking and excessive caffeine and alcohol intake. Also, check out womens health questions for more topics.
How Do I Manage My Risk Factors?
Arrhythmias can increase your stroke risk factors, heart attack risk factors and chance of sudden cardiac arrest. For this reason, it is important to reduce your chance of developing heart palpitations (irregular heartbeats) linked to arrhythmia. To do so:
• Have your blood pressure checked regularly. High blood pressure is a silent killer. See, recommended health screenings for women.
• Control your cholesterol levels as this can lead to heart disease.
• Lose weight if you are carrying excess weight.
• Eat a heart-healthy diet.
• Avoid smoking tobacco.
• Enjoy regular physical activity.