Have you ever wondered what initiates a heartbeat?
The heart beats due to electrical impulses generated from two nodes present in it. These impulses are produced at regular intervals and as a result, the heart beats in a rhythmic pattern. Any change in our body that causes these impulses to become irregular affects the heart and as a result, the heart may beat faster /slower or beat irregularly. This irregularity is called Cardiac Arrhythmia. There are many causes for Arrhythmia.
The Heart’s Pacemaker
The heart has two nodes the sinoatrial (SA) node and the atrioventricular (AV) node. The SA node generates impulses and hence it is rightly termed as the heart’s natural pacemaker because the rest of the cardiac rhythm depends on the initial impulse.
The impulse from the SA node goes to the AV node and one heartbeat is produced and the cardiac cycle continues. If the electrical signals are not generated or sent rhythmically, a Cardiac Arrhythmia may occur.
Causes of Arrhythmia
Here are some key causes.
- Blocked Arteries.
- Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism
- A heart attack
- Excess caffeine or alcohol or drug abuse.
Once you know the cause for Arrhythmia, you need to identify the type of Arrhythmia. Before we get to that remember that the rate at which the heart beats is around 72 bpm (beats per minute)
For a person who has Bradycardia, his/her heart beats very slowly lesser than 60 beats per minute. This could indicate that the heart’s natural pacemaker is defective and the signals produced are disrupted. The heart’s ability to pump sufficient blood is impaired. On the contrary very fit individuals like athletes have a lower heart rate. This is because the body gets sufficient blood supply at a lower heart rate thus avoiding the need for the heart to work harder.
If a person has tachycardia his/her heart beats very fast. The heart rate exceeds 100 bpm. In this case the heart’s natural pacemaker sends signals very quickly thus making the heart work more. In contrast to bradycardia a person who has tachycardia is always at risk of a disorder of any kind. As the heart beats very fast, the heart chambers are not filled with sufficient blood before they send It out to the body and this could cause fibrillation (cardiac arrest).
Atrial or ventricular fibrillation could be caused due to tachycardia and the person should be given treatment immediately. The heart could collapse and go into cardiac arrest. The patient should be given external defibrillation to stabilize the heart. So as you can see tachycardia is very dangerous and could be life threatening.
Once diagnosed with arrhythmia, it is advisable to get treated at the earliest. Keeping fit and leading a healthy lifestyle will ensure a happy heart and years of good health.
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