Arrhythmia: Risk Factors

WHAT IS AN ARRHYTHMIA?

The heart is an organ responsible for pumping and circulating blood to other parts of the body. It does this through rhythmic contraction and beating. The heart beats rhythmically to provide the whole body and all organs with nutrients and oxygen-rich blood. When there is a problem with the regularity of the heart-beat, the condition is known as an arrhythmia or a dysrhythmia. Many people are surviving on a daily basis with arrhythmia and some others are not even aware that they have arrhythmia because it is mostly asymptomatic. Any human being can come down with arrhythmia but there are some conditions that make some people to have a higher risk of developing the condition. People live with arrhythmias every day.

THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ARRHYTHMIAS

The various kinds of arrhythmias include:

  • Bradycardia: this is a decrease in the heart rate
  • Tachycardia: it is an increase in the heart rate
  • Atrial fibrillation: this occurs when the rhythm of the heart is irregularly irregular due to the fact that the electrical signals in the heart produce an irregular heartbeat and make the atrial chamber of the heart to contract at a much greater frequency and speed than the ventricular chamber
  • Ventricular fibrillation: this happens when the ventricles are contracting at a faster rate
  • Premature contraction: this occurs when the heart has an additional, abnormal beat that occurs early thereby producing an irregular rhythm
  • Atrial flutter: this occurs when the heart beats at  very increased speed

WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR ARRHYTHMIA?

Those who have had a heart condition at some point in their life stand a greater chance of developing an arrhythmia. The functionality of the heart can be changed by a heart condition and as time goes by, it can cause a change in heartbeat or its pace. The possible risk factors include:

Coronary heart disease

The blood vessels that supply the heart are the coronary vessels.  Coronary heart disease occurs when the coronary vessels have a buildup of plaque or when the heart or blood vessels that supply the muscles of the heart undergo scarring. These plaques cause obstruction to the heart and make it harder for the heart to pump blood. This leads to a decrease in heart rate (bradycardia) and subsequently, an arrhythmia.

Heart attack or heart failure

Heart attack or heart failure can alter the heart’s electrical impulses, resulting in a greater chance of developing an arrhythmia. Here is a comprehensive guide to Heart failure & Treatment.

Endocarditis

It is an inflammation of the inner layer of the heart. Those with this condition usually have atrial fibrillation.

Heart valve disease

When the valves of the heart become porous and lax, it can alter the way the heart beats thus causing arrhythmias.

Congenital heart disorders

Many at times, people are born with heart diseases that affect the functionality of the heart. When it occurs, the heart may not be able to beat as it normally would. Those who have ever had a heart surgery stand a greater chance of developing an arrhythmia. You have an increased likelihood of having an arrhythmia if you have ever had heart surgery.

Age, gender, and lifestyle

These three factors play a contributory role in the development of arrhythmia. The elderly population (those greater than 60 years) are those that have the highest level of occurrence of heart disease (including hypertension) and so they tend to take drugs that alter the hearts rhythm. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute even reports that those above the age of sixty are likely to develop a severe form of arrhythmia.

The American Heart Association reports that certain kinds of arrhythmia show a gender predilection. Atrial fibrillation for example is reported to be more common in men than in women.

Our lifestyle also plays a role, what we ingest can affect the rhythm of the heart. Those who take excessive amounts of alcohol or caffeine and other CNS stimulants have a higher chance of developing an arrhythmia. Consumption of tobacco can also increase the chances of getting an arrhythmia. Some drugs used in treating heart conditions have also been implicated in arrhythmias.

OTHER CONDITIONS

Other conditions that increase the likelihood of developing an arrhythmia include:

  • Diabetes
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Pulmonary embolism, here the lung has a blood clot in it
  • Emphysema, it is a lung disorder where an enzyme is deficient
  • Asthma
  • Sleep apnea
  • Thyroid gland diseases
  • Electrolyte imbalances, the electrolytes involved are potassium, magnesium, calcium, or other substances that are essential for regulating the heart rhythm

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Most people with arrhythmias are unaware that they have the condition and so they go ahead and live a normal active life. If this continues and the arrhythmia is still undiagnosed, the sequela including heart attack or a stroke can occur and may be very severe.

There are some life style changes that can be instituted to help lessen the risk of developing an arrhythmia and they include:

  • Regular blood pressure monitoring
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat healthy and avoid high cholesterol diets
  • Keep a normal weight
  • Cessation of smoking by conscious commitment

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