Arrhythmia’s can be serious, and in some cases, you may not even know you have one. In general, arrhythmia’s are irregular heartbeats that cause palpitations or a racing, irregular, or slow heartbeat. The underlying causes of these issues are malfunctions in the heart’s unique electrical system that signals to the heart muscles when to pump. If the electrical discharges that trigger the muscles are not functioning correctly, then the heart reacts erratically and irregularly. Improper electrical discharges can be caused by too many signals being sent out, signals sent with incorrect timing, or signals originating from improper locations within the heart.
There are many types, groups, and classes of arrhythmia’s, each having its own specific and unique characteristics. Nevertheless, arrhythmia’s, in general, are caused by various kinds of malfunctions within the heart’s electrical system. Under normal conditions, electrical signals from the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) are sent by via pathways to the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles). When the ventricles receive the signals, they pump causing blood to move through the body. This regular repetitive electrical signaling is autonomic meaning the electrical signals fire involuntarily without any guidance from the individual.
Occasionally, this electrical system is disrupted or damaged such that the regular, repetitive firing of the signals becomes irregular or erratic. A variety of electrical malfunctions can result from damage to heart cells due to several causes. These causes include those listed below.
- The electrical signals are produced by specialized nerve cells in the heart, and these cells can sometimes malfunction.
- The electrical pathways over which the signals travel can become blocked or damaged causing the signal to take random routes through the heart resulting in irregular heartbeats.
- Occasionally, cells in other parts of the heart begin producing electrical signals which, when added to the normal signals disrupts the heartbeats.
- Scar tissue can develop over the site where the electrical signal originates disrupting the signals and causing irregular heartbeats. In advanced cases, the scar tissue can become so extensive as to block the signals completely.
- Individual lifestyle choices can cause disruptions in heart rhythms. Heavy consumption of alcohol, excessive smoking, use of some illegal drugs, taking certain over the counter medications, or consuming excessive caffeine can lead to arrhythmia’s in individuals with healthy hearts. These lifestyle choices also can damage heart cells which ultimately interfere with the heart’s electrical system or cause irregular heartbeats in individuals with existing heart problems.
- High levels of emotional stress, blood pressure, or excessive anger can release stress hormones leading to arrhythmia’s.
- Heart attacks, prolonged high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, hypothyroidism, heart failure, or rheumatic fever can lead to heart damage and arrhythmia’s.
- In some cases, there are no known causes for the arrhythmia’s.
Individuals with any of the issues listed above or with any signs of arrhythmia should schedule an appointment with one of our physicians at the Atrial Fibrillation Center Of America clinic. We have a highly trained and dedicated staff focused on delivering compassionate care to each patient. If you believe you are at risk for arrhythmia’s because of personal lifestyle choices or feel you have experienced arrhythmia’s it is important that you set an appointment and visit with one of our doctors. Call our offices at Atrial Fibrillation Center Of America, and one of our professional staff will be happy to arrange an appointment. Arrhythmia can be serious, and it may be time for you to consult a medical professional, (832) 478-5067.