Arrhythmias

9 mins read

Introduction
The English word ‘arrhythmia’ comes from the Greek word rhymos, meaning ‘rhythm.’ The Greek prefix a means ‘loss’ – put together they mean ‘loss of rhythm.’ An arrhythmia, also called dysrhythmia, is an irregular heartbeat. Arrhythmias occur when the electrical impulses to the heart that coordinate heartbeats are not working properly, making the heart beat too fast, too slow, or inconsistently. Rapid arrhythmias are called ‘tachycardias,’ while slow ones are called ‘bradycardias.’

Many heart arrhythmias are harmless. We all occasionally experience irregular heartbeats, which may feel like a racing heart or fluttering. However, some arrhythmias, especially if they veer too far from a normal heartbeat may cause damaging and even potentially fatal symptoms. The treatment for arrhythmias depends on the underlying condition. There are a number of successful conventional medicines, as well as preventative lifestyle adjustments for arrhythmias. There are a number of safe natural supplements that are proven to help cardiac health.

Causes
If the electrical impulses that cause the heart to contract are interrupted it will result in arrhythmia. The following may cause interruptions to heartbeats:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Diabetes
  • Drug abuse
  • Excessive coffee consumption
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension (elevated blood pressure)
  • Hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland)
  • Mental stress
  • Scarring of the heart (often the result of a heart attack)
  • Smoking
  • Some dietary supplements
  • Some herbal treatments
  • Some medications
  • Damaged heart tissue

The following conditions can restrict your blood flow to the heart, scar or otherwise harm your heart, causing arrhythmias.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

  • Caused by the narrowing of the arteries in the heart
  • One of the leading causes of a heart attack
  • Lack of blood flow causes scarring of the heart tissue. These scarred heart tissue interferes with the proper movement of electrical impulses, which make the heart beat too fast or irregular.

Cardiomyopathy

  • Disease of the myocardium (heart muscle)
  • The condition causes the walls of the ventricles to stretch or enlarge, or the left ventricle wall may thicken and constrict
  • The heart’s blood-pumping efficiency is affected, often resulting in heart tissue damage.

Valvular Heart Diseases
If the heart valves are tight or leaking, there is a significant risk of developing arrhythmia.

Symptoms
While most people can feel an arrhythmia, it can also be silent and not cause any symptoms. If your heart beat is noticeable, symptoms include:

  • Palpitations: This is a feeling of skipped heartbeats, fluttering or ‘flip-flops,’ or feeling that your heart is ‘running away;’
  • Pounding in the chest
  • Dizziness or feeling light-headed
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort
  • Weakness or fatigue (feeling very tired)

Treatment options
High or slow heartbeats do not necessarily mean there is heart disease that needs to be treated. Treatment is only required if the condition is worsening or there is a risk of a complication.

The type of treatment depends on the underlying cause of the arrhythmia.

Bradycardias (Heartbeat Is Too Slow) Diagnosis:

  • In case of an underlying problem such as an underactive thyroid gland or a drug side effect the problem needs to be treated first.
  • In cases without any underlying problem the doctor may advise implanting a pace-maker.

Pacemaker:

  • A pacemaker is a small device that is placed under the skin of the chest or abdomen and uses electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate.
  • It replaces the job of the atrioventricular node or the sinoatrial node or both depending on the number of leads and channels selected.
  • Treatment for Tachycardias (Heartbeat Is Too Fast)

Vagal Maneuvers:

  • This may involve the patient holding his/her breath and straining or coughing.
  • The doctor, nurse or a specialized physical therapist may suggest other maneuvers.
  • These maneuvers affect the vagal nerves and often cause the heart rate to slow down.

Ablation Therapy:

  • Ablation means ‘taking the disease away.’
  • One or more catheters go through blood vessels into the inner heart. They are placed in areas of the heart that are thought to be the sources of the arrhythmia. Electrodes at the ends of the catheter are heated to destroy the heart tissue causing the irregular rhythm. Sometimes the tips are cooled down and the problem tissue is frozen creating an electrical block along the pathway that is causing the arrhythmia.

Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD):

  • If the patient is at high risk of developing a very fast or quivering (fibrillating) heartbeat in the ventricles, an ICD may be implanted.
  • The ICD monitors the heart rhythm and shocks the heart out of a bad rhythm, with the use of a pacemaker, as soon as it detects an abnormally slow rhythm.
  • Experts say that an ICD is better at significantly reducing the risk of a fatal arrhythmia than medications.

Maze Procedure:

  • This is a series of surgical incisions made in the atria (upper half of the heart). They then heal into scars in the atria that form boundaries that make the electrical impulses travel properly so that the heart beats efficiently.
  • This is open-heart surgery and is usually used for patients who have not responded well enough to other treatments.
  • Studies indicate success rates between 81-97 percent.

Ventricular Aneurysm Surgery:

  • If an aneurysm (bulge) in a blood vessel that leads to the heart is causing the arrhythmia and other treatments did not work, a surgeon may remove the aneurysm.
  • This surgical procedure has a good success rate
  • It is sometimes used if the implanted ICD or catheter ablation did not work.

Coronary Bypass Surgery:

  • A patient with frequent ventricular tachycardia who also has severe coronary artery disease may be advised to undergo coronary bypass surgery.
  • Arteries or veins from elsewhere in the patient’s body are grafted to the coronary arteries to bypass atherosclerotic narrowings and improve the blood supply to the coronary circulation supplying the heart muscle (myocardium).

Prevention

  • Diet: Magnesium, calcium and potassium moderate heart activity, so eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, soybeans and fish.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise is key to heart health. Aim for at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise at least three times per week.
  • Weight: Maintain a healthy weight. Check out your BMI. More than 25 is considered overweight and over 30 is considered obese.
  • Smoking: Stop smoking and avoid passive smoke. Tobacco contributes to as much as one-third of all cardiovascular disease.
  • Alcohol: Avoid or limit the intake of caffeine, alcohol, and other substances that may contribute to arrhythmias or heart disease. Moderate drinking is defined as up to two standard drinks daily for men and one drink for daily for women.
  • Stress: Avoid unnecessary stress, such as anger, anxiety, or fear; find ways to manage or control stressful situations that cannot be avoided.
  • Check-ups: Having regular physical exams and promptly reporting any unusual symptoms to a physician. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that families with a history of arrhythmias or sudden cardiac arrest consider screening younger family members.

Alternative Therapies

Natural Remedies
The following natural remedies have known to be effective in treating irregular heartbeats:

Hawthorn
The use of hawthorn for heart conditions dates back at least to the 17th century, where it was called Hawthorn Oxyacanthus, White Thorne, or Hawthorn Tree. [5]

  • The herb increases blood flow lowers blood pressure is mildly calming for the nervous system.
  • In several European countries, it is considered an approved drug for cardiac health.
  • The daily dose is 2-4 dropperfuls of the tincture, or 1-2 tablets of the standardized extract, morning and evening.

Psyllium
It is a fiber that can reduce cholesterol levels.

  • Use half or one teaspoon of psyllium powder in a glass of water twice daily with food.
  • Flax fiber is another good option, so is glucomannan fiber. [6]

Dietary Supplements
Coenzyme Q10: It is a substance which is found naturally in every cell of the body. It is a powerful antioxidant and increases oxygenation in the heart. It is available as a supplement in several forms, including soft gel capsules, oral spray, hard shell capsules, and tablets. The recommended dose is 30 – 200 mg daily. [4]

Fish Oils or Cold Water Fish:

  • Reduces the risk for heart rhythm disturbances
  • Reduces the risk of heart palpitations, atrial fibrillation, and ventricular arrhythmia.
  • Fish oils may reduce the incidence of sudden cardiac death probably due to an anti-arrhythmic effect and they also have blood thinning potential.
  • Another option is krill oil.
  • Fish oils can be taken at one to three capsules a day. [3]

Lifestyle Modifications
Various lifestyle modifications can go a long way in combating heart diseases. A diet which is low in salt and solid fats but rich in fruits, veggies and whole grains can keep your heart healthy. Regular exercise supplemented by healthy choices such as no smoking and drinking alcohol in moderation is also found to be beneficial in keeping a good heart balance.

Conclusion
Irregular heart-beats do not necessarily require medical treatment. However, if you have an arrhythmia, and it is worsening or serious enough to require treatment, there are a number of procedures with excellent success rates. Heart health depends on lifestyle, diet and exercise. A number of natural medications have been shown to improve overall cardiac health, with few side effects.

Read More:
Quick Fix: Hemp Oil For Heart Disease
5 Foods For A Healthy Heart
6 Herbs To Keep Your Heart Healthy
Science Says: People With Psychosis Are At An Increased Risk Of Heart Disease

References
1.Edgerton, James R., MD, et al, Minimally Invasive Pulmonary Vein Isolation and Partial Autonomic Denervation for Surgical Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation , Annals of Thoracic Surgery, 2008;86:35-39.

2.Zhang Y, Mazgalev TN. Arrhythmias and vagus nerve stimulation. Heart Fail Rev. 2011 Mar;16(2):147-61.

3.Den Ruijter HM, Berecki G, Opthof T, Verkerk AO, Zock PL, Coronel R (2007). “Pro- and antiarrhythmic properties of a diet rich in fish oil”. Cardiovascular Research 73 (2): 316–25.

4.Belardinelli R, Mucaj A, Lacalaprice F, et al., Coenzyme Q10 and exercise training in chronic heart failure. Eur Heart J. 2006;27(22):2675-81.

5.Ammon HPT, Handel M. Crataegus: toxicology and pharmacology.Planta Medica 1981;43:318-22

6. Bernstein AM, Titgemeier B, Kirkpatrick K, Golubic M, Roizen MF. Major cereal grain fibers and psyllium in relation to cardiovascular health. Nutrients. 2013 Apr 29;5(5):1471-87. doi: 10.3390/nu5051471. Review. PubMed PMID: 23628720; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3708330.

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