There are many types of arrhythmia, but they are an irregular heart rhythm or heart rate. Essentially, the heart beat goes off cadence, and this irregularity may or may not be felt by the patient. Many people are aware of skipping, strong palpitations or rapid heart beats, while others may learn of it while at the doctor’s office and it shows up in an electrocardiogram.
Arrhythmias are very common, and can affect both sexes and all ages and about 20-25% of patients with arrhythmias are not in danger.
What Causes Arrhythmia?
Certain situations can cause them including menopause, when hormone levels drop. If a person is very sensitive to caffeine, this can cause an arrhythmia. Excessive sugar can cause a fluctuation in insulin and adrenaline. Also, alcohol is another culprit, and the combination of alcohol and sugars, and caffeine, and chocolate and sweets, can generate quite intense arrhythmias in sensitive people.
During the Holiday Season, when people consume too much of both, I see a lot. In fact, it is called Holiday Heart Syndrome. Of interest it is that everyday stress as well as a deficiency of the mineral magnesium is very common. Magnesium depletion runs rampant across all age groups, but postmenopausal women have the most deficiencies.
Healthy young women can develop arrhythmias as a result of using birth control pills.
Another instance is mitral valve prolapse, a condition more prominent in women. I have also found that people in high altitudes as well as exposure to EMS, and WiFys can also experience arrhythmias.
Are There Different Kinds of Arrhythmias?
Yes, there are several. The most common, called premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) occur when one of the two bottom chambers, the ventricles of the heart, contracts prematurely. We frequently see PVCs in women who have mitral valve prolapse.
A premature atrial contraction is when the atrium, one of the two top chambers of the heart, contracts prematurely. These irregularities are usually not a problem for the healthy person. Atrial fibrillation is another arrhythmia that often develops with aging, when the heart is irregularly irregular, though a patient may not feel it.
Can Arrhythmias Be Deadly?
The “Cafe Coronary” has been documented in connection with fatty meals, alcohol and stressful moods. The combination can trigger a fatal series of rapidly fired ventricular beats called ventricular tachyarrhythmia. Ventricular tachycardia is an intense, prolonged racing of the heart like a runaway PVC. It is dangerous.
It can deteriorate into ventricular fibrillation or cardiac arrest. We use nasal oxygen with intravenous medications. When the paramedics arrive, a cardioversion with CPR is also instituted. In essence, during dangerous fast arrhythmias, the heart pumping mechanism loses traction. Its rhythm becomes chaotic, and cannot supply its very own heart muscle, or the rest of the body. So, tell your doctor if you have palpitations, see your cardiologist, and obtain cardiac monitoring.
Atrial fibrillation, sometimes call “A. Fib” for short, is a type of arrhythmia or irregularity of the heart beat that originates in either the left or right atrium – the two upper chambers of the heart. Normally the atriA fill with blood returning from the heart. The right atrium receives blood from the venous system, the left from the lungs. Each atrium then contracts, propelling the blood into the two larger, lower chambers called the ventricles. The ventricles contract and eject the blood from the ventricle into the lungs to be re-oxygenated, and from the left ventricle into the aorta to circulate through the rest of the body. In atrial fibrillation, the heart’s normal electrical pacemaker is bombarded by competing electrical charges which originate in the atria.
These competing impulses initiate chaotic muscle contraction, so instead of contracting forcefully to move blood out, the atrium quivers or fibrillates. This can cause a loss of up to 30% of the atrial kick that contributes to the blood output of the heart and can send heart rates as high as 230 to 250 beats per minute. Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia I have seen in my practice. I have treated the young and older patients. 2-4% of people over 60 years of age experience atrial fibrillation.
What Causes It?
Atrial fibrillation can result of several causes, and can occur if the atria become enlarged or lose their ability to contract; if the heart’s electrical conduction system ages, becomes fibrotic or misfires; or if metabolic states such as hyperthyroidism overstimulate the conduction system. It also occurs after the heart is manipulated after open heart surgery, or due to longstanding high blood pressure, and valvular heart disease. Sometimes the exact cause of atrial fibrillation is unknown.
It is also important to note that atrial fibrillation can occur in perfectly healthy hearts. If you are vulnerable to bouts of atrial fibrillation, you should avoid chocolate and other foods containing caffeine, and chemicals such as ephedrine in over-the-counter cold remedies. The treatment for atrial fibrillation is that of medical therapy or ablation therapy.
Why Do I Have to Take Blood Thinners With Atrial fibrillation?
Blood thinning agents or anticoagulants such as aspirin, Coumadin or Plavix, pradaxa and others help to stop blood clots from forming in the fibrillating atria, protecting from stroke. Cardiologists use anticoagulation therapy.
A major risk for anticoagulation involves possible bleeding or hemorrhage. Anticoagulants slow blood clotting, but thinning the blood too much can carry a risk. In the elderly, overly prolonged clotting time can increase the chances of internal bleeding. If you play contact sports or are traumatized by an injury, thin blood which clots slowly, can be risky. When weighing the risks and benefits of anticoagulation, physicians screen their patients very carefully for a history of gastrointestinal tract bleeding, high blood pressure, renal disease, hemorrhagic strokes, and potential for falls. If you begin anticoagulation therapy, your doctor will closely monitor you for blood clotting by a specialized test called a prothrombin time by INR (International Normalized Ratio). I strongly recommend anticoagulating therapy with Coumadin or aspirin or Pradaxa and others , which is a new blood thinning agent which has good results.
What if You Can’t Tolerate the Medication Typically Prescribed for Atrial Fibrillation?
Testing is essential. All vitamins, hormones minerals omegas etc are studied. Heavy metals, toxins, infection are addressed.
Low dose prescription anti-arrhythmics are also used.
I also include in these patients, Q10, carnitine, magnesium, and ribose. They are absolutely essential. In addition, there are natural blood thinners such as garlic, vitamin E, lumbrokinase, and nattokinase as well as fish oil that can be added to the regime.