Tag Archives: palpitations

Arrhythmias – A Whacky Ticker Could Be Serious

Arrhythmias are conditions which disrupt the normal electrical impulses of the heart, causing abnormal heartbeats. Not dissimilar to recurrent power surges and flickering lights in a house. There are different types of arrhythmias, and conditions that may mimic them as well. Some arrhythmias are harmless, simply causing mild delays in heartbeats, while others can be deadly if left untreated.


While some people with arrhythmias display few-to-no symptoms, others may experience:

  • Palpitations
  • A slow or chronically elevated heart rate
  • Little pauses between beats
  • Anxiety
  • Light-headedness
  • Fatigue

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), more serious symptoms of arrhythmias include shortness of breath, syncope (fainting), extreme weakness or fatigue, chest pain, or acute or unexplained anxiety.

Premature Ventricular Contractions

Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs) are extra heartbeats which disrupt the heart’s normal rhythm. They cause palpitations (a flip-flopping sensation caused by the abnormal heartbeats). Generally speaking, PVCs are not serious and are very common. Most people will experience the occasional PVC or palpitation at some point in their lives. However, if PVCs are occurring frequently or over a prolonged period of time, they could be a sign of underlying conditions such as an anxiety problem, an arrhythmia, or another underlying heart condition.

Types of Arrhythmias

According to the American Heart Association some of the main types of arrhythmic conditions are:

  1. Atrial Fibrillation – a type of chronically irregular heartbeat that can lead to heart complications such as stroke or heart attack if left unchecked. An estimated 2.7 million Americans have AF.
  2. Bradycardia – a low chronic resting heart rate of under 60 BPM. It can be non-threatening depending on factors such as physical fitness (athletes commonly have a very slow resting heart rate, but this is due to very strong heart muscles), but because the brain may get less oxygen, it can also lead to serious complications such as heart failure, blood pressure conditions, or syncope.
  3. Tachycardia – (part of the Supraventricular family of arrhythmias) is a chronically elevated heart rate of generally around or over 100 BPM and is the opposite of Bradycardia. There are different types of tachycardia ranging from relatively harmless to life-threatening.
  4. Ventricle Fibrillation – an unorganized heartbeat associated with the lower chambers of the heart.

Detection and Diagnosis

There are several tests that can be conducted by your doctor or a cardiologist if an arrhythmia is suspected. One of these tests is a standard (EKG) which shows your heart rate and rhythm. Unfortunately, arrhythmias can be fleeting and may be difficult to detect during a 12 second EKG. In such cases a Holter monitor test may be ordered, a portable EKG machine you wear for 24-48 hours that takes continuous ‘snapshots’ of your heart rate as you do different activities. These monitors are better at catching an arrhythmia than a one-off EKG test. If your doctor suspects your arrhythmia is worsened by exercise, he or she may order a stress/exercise test to see if your heart rate rises dangerously when you perform minimal-to-moderate exercise.

Prevention and Treatment

Many arrhythmias are considered non-threatening enough that no treatment may be prescribed, but it is still important to get them diagnosed so you know if your arrhythmia is life-threatening, requires medication, or needs to be monitored for potential future complications.

There are things you can do that may lower your risk of developing an arrhythmia such as exercising regularly, avoiding smoking or drinking too much alcohol, controlling your weight, managing blood pressure and cholesterol, and partaking in a heart-healthy diet.

If you are experiencing symptoms that could be related to an arrhythmia or PVCs, you can check your pulse manually, or download a heart rate tracker app to keep an eye on it. You should also make an appointment with your primary care physician or one of our highly qualified DocChat physicians to ensure your heart is behaving properly.

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