The human heart is a complex organ that comprises of two systems working ceaselessly to pump blood throughout the body – Circulatory (Cardiovascular) system and the Cardiac Conduction system.
Circulatory (Cardiovascular) system1: The main function of the circulatory system is to provide oxygen, nutrients and hormones to muscles, tissues, and organs through an intricate network of blood vessels.
Cardiac Conduction system:Human heart is a tireless organ which beats continuously from birth to death and has a specialised autonomous conduction system of its own.Your heart’s conduction system is the network of signals that keeps your heart beating2. These electrical signals make your heart contract or relax.
Improper functioning of the cardiac conduction system due to inherent or external factors may lead to morbidities and event mortality in some extreme cases.
What is an Arrhythmia?
Do you ever experience your heart beating so slow that it is hard to catch your breath, or sometimes beating so fast as if your heart is about to leap out of your chest?
Blaise Pascal, the famous scientist once said, “The heart has reasons, which the reason cannot understand.” However, you can now understand why your heart’s rhythm is so irregular. The reason may be an underlying heart condition called Arrhythmia.
Medically anarrhythmia (uh-RITH-me-uh) may be defined as a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heart.Any deviation from the heart’s conduction pathway results in arrhythmia.
Should you be concerned?
Arrhythmias sometimes present with no discernible symptom. If you have one or more of the following symptoms3, it is advisable to consult a doctor immediately:
Causes & Diagnosis3
Arrhythmias may be triggered due to various factors3 such as:
- Coronary artery disease
- Irritable tissue in the heart (due to genetic or acquired causes)
- High blood pressure
- Changes in the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy)
- Valve disorders
- Electrolyte imbalances in your blood, such as sodium or potassium imbalances
- Injury from a heart attack
- The healing process after heart surgery
- Other medical conditions
Upon your visit to a cardiologist, you may be assessed on your symptoms and asked to undergo diagnostic tests to confirm the presence of an arrhythmia and its causes.
Some tests that may be done to diagnose an irregular heart rhythm are:
Who needs to get arrhythmia screening done periodically?
Patients who have been diagnosed with the following conditions need to get screened for arrhythmia periodically to stay ahead of any complications:
- Ischemic Heart disease with Scarred Myocardium
- Left ventricle Clot
- Post CABG/ Valve replacement Surgery
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Type 2 Diabetes with Ischemic heart disease or Silent Heart attacks
In recent years, new technology has allowed ambulatory ECG monitors to have more memory while still being small and lightweight; these are wireless patch monitors5 like Vigo Heart.
When should you visit your doctor3?
You should visit your healthcare provider as soon as you experience the symptoms of Arrhythmia.
Additionally, you’ll need to visit the doctor for regular follow-up visits to:
- Make sure your arrhythmia is controlled.
- Properly adjust your medications.
- Evaluate the function of any implanted devices.
- Make sure you’re staying healthy and not having other medical problems.
Your doctor will tell you how often you should visit. Call your doctor in between visits if your symptoms become more frequent or severe.
- Heeringa J, van der Kuip DA, Hofman A, et al. Prevalence, incidence and lifetime risk of atrial fibrillation: the Rotterdam study. Eur Heart J. 2006;27(8):949-953.
- Health Quality Ontario. Long-Term Continuous Ambulatory ECG Monitors and External Cardiac Loop Recorders for Cardiac Arrhythmia: A Health Technology Assessment. Ont Health Technol Assess Ser. 2017;17(1):1-56.