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Abnormal Heart Beat

From time to time everyone may notice a change in the way their heart beats. For instance, overly exerting yourself can make your heart race, while emotional upset may trigger an irregular beat. However, if an altered heartbeat occurs more regularly, this may signal an underlying arrhythmia. While some arrhythmias are harmless, other disturbances to your heart's rhythm require close management, as without treatment they can pose a risk to your long-term health. Seeking specialist medical assessment is therefore vital if you experience ongoing problems with palpitations so that you can get access to prompt treatment for your abnormal heart beat.

Abnormal Heart Beat Symptoms

An altered heartbeat may present in different ways. You may find that your heart beats faster or slower than usual, you may notice that your pulse becomes irregular or that you develop extra or skipped beats. Any of these symptoms can occur due to a possible arrhythmia, though an abnormal heart beat may also occur along with other signs of a cardiac problem. For instance, you may feel weak, dizzy, faint or actually black out. Alternatively, you may also develop tiredness and breathlessness, which may occur at rest or on exertion. Particularly if your unusual heartbeat occurs with other symptoms, you should arrange an appointment with a Cardiologist promptly.

Abnormal Heart Beat Causes

There are a range of conditions that may cause your heart to beat with a different rate or rhythm to normal, and not all of these are cardiac in nature. For example, a faster, irregular or stronger heartbeat may occur with hyperthyroidism, anaemia and panic attacks, though this is rarely the only symptom present. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and around the menopause may also cause an unusual heartbeat, but these usually resolve once your hormones settle. However, if these alternative conditions are excluded, you may have a cardiac arrhythmia. One of the most common causes of heart rhythm disturbance is atrial fibrillation, which causes a fast and irregular pulse, and you may feel your heart fluttering. Tiredness, breathlessness and dizziness may also accompany the palpitations in atrial fibrillation and treatment is vital to reduce your risk of a stroke. Another cause of a fast pulse is supraventricular tachycardia, but you are less likely to experience an irregular beat with this arrhythmia.

Diagnosing an Abnormal Heart Beat

Your Consultant will conduct a detailed assessment of your altered heartbeat, asking for information about your symptoms and possible triggers. Various lifestyle factors can cause an abnormal heart beat, so they will want to exclude those, as well as any problems with your general health that may explain a change in your heart's rate or rhythm. However, to inform their diagnosis, an electrocardiogram (ECG) is essential, as various cardiac problems may present with similar symptoms. This non-invasive test provides information about your heart's electrical activity and collects these details with the help of electrodes attached to your chest, arms and legs. Sometimes it is possible to detect an abnormal rhythm or rate using an ECG at rest, though as changes in your heartbeat may only occur at certain times, an exercise ECG or 24 hour ECG may prove more useful, as these increase the likelihood of recording an arrhythmia. In some instances it is necessary to have an implanted monitor, which records the rate and rhythm of your heart over a longer period to capture abnormalities when they occur. Equally, if your Consultant suspects you have undiagnosed heart disease, they may arrange further testing, such as an echocardiogram, to reach a firm diagnosis.

Treating an Abnormal Heart Beat

Once tests show the cause of your altered heart rate or rhythm, your Cardiologist will discuss the treatment options available with you. Depending on your diagnosis, lifestyle changes, medication and procedures such as having a pacemaker fitted or catheter ablation may be suitable. Your Consultant will discuss various aspects of each treatment, including the pros and cons, to allow you to make an informed decision about managing your abnormal heart beat. The emphasis placed on patient-centred care at the Heart Rhythm Group allows you to be involved in the decision-making process at every step.

If you would like an appointment to investigate your altered heartbeat, don't delay getting in touch with the Heart Rhythm Group.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.