Causes and Symptoms of Arrhythmias

Heart, stethoscope and EKG

Cardiac arrhythmias, also called heart rhythm disturbances , are common disorders that result in abnormal heart rhythms. Arrhythmias can cause the heart to beat too slowly, too quickly, or at an irregular rate. The most common cause of these disorders is a heart attack, which cuts off the heart’s blood supply and causes the electrical activity of the heart muscle to become irregular and erratic. Other causes of arrhythmia include:

  • Birth defects
  • Caffeine, tobacco, or alcohol use
  • Diet pills
  • Diseased heart valves or heart muscle
  • Stress
  • Certain prescription medications

Although some cardiac arrhythmias can occur without any symptoms, others can lead to very noticeable ones, such as:

  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Sensations of a missed or extra heartbeat or heart fluttering (palpitations)

When you experience symptoms of cardiac arrhythmia , it is usually a sign that your muscles or brain is not receiving adequate blood flow due to decreased functionality of the heart. When you experience chest pain, this can be a sign that the heart muscle itself is not receiving enough blood.

Arrhythmias can be detected during a routine physical exam or as a result of you reporting symptoms to your physician. If an arrhythmia is identified or suspected, your doctor will perform tests to evaluate your cardiovascular health. These tests often include an electrocardiogram (EKG), an exercise stress test to evaluate the function of the heart during increased physical activity, or an echocardiogram. If your cardiologist wants a more precise view of blood flow through the heart, he or she may recommend coronary angiography or nuclear scanning.

You can reduce your risk of developing a dangerous arrhythmia by avoiding the complications associated with cardiovascular disease. To identify your risk factors and work to prevent heart disease, schedule a consultation with a cardiologist at Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center’s Heart Center by calling (805) 497-2727.

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