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What Are The Types And Causes Of Irregular Heartbeats (Arrhythmia): Dr Praveen Chandra Explains

Arrhythmia refers to an irregular heartbeat. It does not necessarily mean that your heart rate is too fast or too slow, it just means that the heart rate is not normal. Guess what, most of these are silent arrhythmias! This condition can either be fatal or simply harmless. Cardiologist Dr. Praveen Chandra says, “The heart has a normal and regular rhythm. Our breathing affects the regular rhythm slightly but not dramatically. But when there is a problem in the conduction of this rhythm, the patient may suffer from irregular heartbeats. There can be any sort of problem with the heart.”
What are the causes of arrhythmia?
An irregular heartbeat can happen due to the following reasons:
An occurring heart attack Stress
Scarred heart tissue from a previous attack
High blood pressure
Drinking too much caffeine or alcohol
Dr. Chandra explains the many types of irregular heartbeats. Take a look.
1. Missed beat
A missed beat is when a person gets a sudden beat and after that, the next beat is missed. It is pretty common and occasionally missing a beat is quite harmless. However, if this happens too frequently, it may disturb the rhythm of the heart leading to irregular heartbeats.
2. Supraventricular tachycardia
The top part of the heart will fire the bottom part of the heart to a faster heart rate. This increased heart rate is known as tachycardia.
3. Atrial fibrillation
The top part of the heart fails to connect with the bottom part of the heart. So the bottom part works at an irregular rate. This is the most common cause of an irregular heartbeat. The risk of this condition increases as you grow older with heart disease. This predisposes people to stroke. So people who deal with this condition are more prone to cardioembolic strokes. They need to be put on medication for stroke prevention.
4. Flutters
This happens when the beat is irregular from the top. Atrial flutters are more regular than atrial fibrillation. It usually affects people with heart disease and during the first week after a heart surgery. It changes to atrial fibrillation often.
5. Ventricular fibrillation
These come from the lower part of the heart. They can happen in isolation or frequently. When they happen frequently, they require treatment because they disturb the functioning of the heart.
6. Ventricular tachycardia
This condition is the worst. When the heartbeat becomes very fast from the lower part of the heart, it can be life-threatening.
7. Blocks
When beats generate from the upper part of the heart and are not being conducted to the lower part of the heart it is known as a block. This can lead to irregular heartbeats and is an immediately life-threatening condition which needs a pacemaker.
(Dr. Praveen Chandra is Chairman, Department of Interventional Cardiology, Medanta)