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Signs & Symptoms of an Irregular Heartbeat

Do you feel dizzy or tightness in your chest frequently? You may have heart arrhythmia, or in other words, an irregular heartbeat. There’s nothing to panic about if you’ve felt the following eight symptoms only on an occasional basis.

The fast fluttering of the heart is experienced by many and may develop with age.  However, if the following symptoms persist, you may have a dangerous arrhythmia that signals heart disease, and requires treatment and medical supervision. Here are the 8 signs of an arrhythmia…

1. Heart Palpitations

One obvious sign of an arrhythmia is heart palpitations, which cause a single premature heartbeat or “skipped beat”. Infrequent heart palpitations are not concerning, however, if they gradually increase, it may be time to consult a medical professional.

To give you a comparison, a normal, healthy heart pumps blood constantly through the circulatory system like a muscular pump, pumping (or expanding and contracting) an average of 100,000 times per day for a total of roughly 2,000 gallons of blood. However, a heart with an arrhythmia (meaning a heart that goes against this normal extracting and contracting sequence) disturbs the effective pumping of blood. For instance, it can cause the heart to too slow, too fast, or erratically all other organs (i.e., brain, kidneys, lungs, etc.) are effected and may become damaged.

2. Fluttering Sensations

Premature beats that occur often or in rapid succession may cause a greater awareness of heart palpitations or a “fluttering” sensation in the chest or neck. Arrhythmias refer to abnormal beats or basically any alternation from the normal sequence of contract and pumping of blood. A fastened heart rate is normally referred to as a tachycardia (which refers to an adult heart that pumps more than 100 beats per minute), according to the American Heart Association.

Although arrhythmias are most likely harmless and don’t pose any threat, they can cause the heart to pump less effectively. This in turn, can impact almost every organ in the body that relies on fresh blood supply (i.e., the lungs) and ineffective function of organs can cause permanent damage over the long term.

3. Dizziness or Lightheadedness

An arrhythmia causes a lack of oxygen in the brain. This lack of vital oxygen will often cause the patient to experience dizziness or lightheadedness to the point of losing balance or even passing out. Several types of arrhythmias can cause light-headedness, including atrial fibrillation and bradycardia.

Atrial fibrillation is a type of tachycardia that results when the electrical activity in the atria is very rapid. This high speed electrical activity and irregular beating can result in lightheadedness. On the opposite end, bradycardia causes slow heart beat and inadequate blood supply for organ and body needs. Untreated bradycardia can cause extreme fatigue, dizziness, and fainting if inadequate blood is reaches the brain. Most times, this is remedied with a pacemaker.

4. Fainting

A sudden fainting, or near-fainting spell, may occur along with heart palpitations. It may also be accompanied by dizziness, lightheadedness, and in extreme cases, a dangerous arrhythmia may cause collapse and sudden cardiac arrest. Several heart arrhythmias can cause fainting, including a bradycardia, or several tachycardias, like atrial flutter (which refers to a lengthened electrical impulse), Wolf-Parkinson-White syndrome (which refers to an abnormal electrical pathway in the heart that causes fast heartbeat), and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (which is a fast heartbeat that causes issues when changing position from upright to lying down).

With a bradycardia, fainting often occurs due to inadequate blood supply to the brain, which causes the inevitable fatigue, dizziness, and lightheadedness.  However, tachycardia, caused by fast or fluttering heart beat can also cause fatigue, shortness of breath, weakness, and fainting. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately.


5. Fatigue

An arrhythmia causes an inadequate blood supply to the rest of the body, which results in weakness and a feeling that your body is drained of energy for no apparent reason. You may require more sleep or have trouble getting out of bed.

As mentioned in previous slides, arrhythmias can mess with fresh blood flow traveling from your heart to your brain and the rest of your body. Although arrhythmia aren’t life threatening in most cases, fatigue is a common side effect depending on how healthy your heart is and the type of arrhythmia you have. In many cases fatigue will result in addition to a fast or slow heart beat, chest pressure, shortness of breath, dizziness, perspiration, and extreme tiredness.


6. Shortness of Breath

Extreme shortness of breath or wheezing may occur with an arrhythmia due to the fact that your heart is releasing less blood output to the rest of the body. Although all types of arrhythmia can cause shortness of breath, this symptom is the most common with one type in particular, Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome, which is a type of tachycardia that results in an irregular electrical pathway in the heart and causes accelerated heartbeat.

WPW is caused due to a congenital abnormality (or abnormality of the heart’s electrical system at birth). The rapid heart beat present with WPW syndrome will often cause heart rate to speed up to 240 beats per minute (the average heart rate is between 60 to 80 beats per minute), which is what causes the shorteners of breath, heart palpitations, and chest pain or pressure that often doesn’t appear until the patient reaches adulthood.

7. Chest Pain

Rapid heartbeat or a pounding heart is often associated with a particular arrhythmia called Ventricular Fibrillation (or VF), a deadly condition that causes rapid, erratic heartbeat rapid, and literal quivering in the chambers in the heart. This cuts off blood supply to your vital organs, causing chest tightness, discomfort, pain, and collapse within a few seconds.

Ventricular fibrillation is characterized by irregular electrical signals or ones that do not follow normal patterns in the heart. For instance, electrical signs that regularly trigger heartbeat can take an abnormal route, alluding the ventricles and causing a series of rapid but useless contractions. Again, ventricular fibrillation can be fatal without emergency treatment, which includes administering an electric shock to the heart, using a defibrillator machine to reset the hear back to normal rhythm.

8. Fast or Slow Heart Beat

An arrhythmia can show itself in an extreme heart beat. On one hand, your pulse may race (a condition referred to as tachycardia). However, on the other side of the spectrum, your heart beat may slow down (a condition called bradycardia).

Rapid heartbeat (or tachycardia) results when the heart beats too quickly. Tachycardia causes two main types of issues–tachycardia that occurs in rapid heartbeats in the atria (upper chambers of your heart) or tachyardia that occurs in the atrioventricular node, which works as the electrical connection between the ventricles (lower heart chambers and atria). Bradycardia occurs when there is inadequate blood supply, either due to a heart block (which slows down the electrical signals that cause the heart to contract) or sick sinus syndrome, which results in the slowing or improper operation of the sinus node (the heart’s pacemaker).


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