Your heart's rhythm

If your heart starts beating at an irregular pace, it could be a warning sign for arrhythmia, informs Dr Vanita Arora.

There is nothing to worry if your heartbeat gets abnormal after exercising, running or some strenuous work. It’s quite normal. But if your heart beats at irregular pace often, then it is time you take it seriously, as you may be suffering from a heart ailment called arrhythmia.

A normal heart beats 60-100 times per minute while resting, but if it starts beating too slowly or too fast or if the heartbeat is irregular or premature, then that condition is known as arrhythmia. When heart beat is too fast, it is tachycardia, and bradycardia when it is too slow. But most people tend to dismiss it as a minor issue, little knowing that it can lead to a stroke, fall due to drop in BP, loss of consciousness or even heart failure.

In a country where people take time to press the panic button when it comes to illnesses and medical problems, it is no surprise that a number of cases of irregular heartbeats go unnoticed for quite long. Some dismiss it as just a recurring symptom of body weakness.

Others may ignore it as a side-effect

of blood pressure issues. The lack of awareness about arrhythmia means not many people even take note of the problem.

An irregular heartbeat may be due to atrial fibrillation. The problem is that the symptoms are quite vague and can be associated with other minor problems as well. In India, not many people are aware that there is a heart’s electricity-related disorder called arrhythmia. Often it is diagnosed when doctors are checking a patient for something else. More often, it is diagnosed by the time major damage has already been caused.

However, the condition is treatable with the implantation of pacemaker devices or through burning the points from where irregular beats originate though radio-frequency heat waves. There are very few instances in Medicine where a permanent cure is possible. For certain arrhythmias this stands true with radio-frequency ablation.
It is important to take seriously any abnormality in the rhythm of our heart. There are many symptoms that can help predict arrhythmia like shortness of breath, weakness, early fatigue, palpitations, thumping in the chest, dizziness, chest pain, fainting, and of course, too fast or slow heartbeats. 

While some arrhythmias can be harmless, some can be life-threatening, disrupting the heart’s normal functioning. In some cases, it can also  lead to heart failure. Lend an ear to your heart’s rhythm. It’s important.

(The writer is the associate director & head, cardiac electrophysiology lab and        arrhythmia services, Max Hospital, Delhi)

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