Irregular Heartbeats, or Arrhythmias

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Irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias, are extra beats of the heart, which run the gamut from being of no health risk to absolutely life-threatening. We get extra beats of the heart from time to time, and not all are dangerous. When 24-hour heart rhythm monitoring is done (wearing a device called a Holter) on individuals with no signs of cardiac problems, extra heartbeats will show up occasionally during that period. Generally if a patient is asymptomatic, there is no concern.

Certain people are more susceptible to irregular heartbeats at certain periods of their lives. For example, young women are more troubled by extra heartbeats than males. It’s also possible that people are more aware of these irregular beats at particular times, such as when they’re under a lot of emotional stress. That’s when catecholamines, or stress hormones increase, which increase the heart’s chances of developing arrhythmias.

However, patients experiencing symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness or blackouts should have their heart’s function tested by an electrocardiogram (EKG). Since irregular heartbeats can be connected to serious heart diseases such as ischemia, cardiomyopathy, blocked arteries and ventricular enlargement, it’s wise to rule out these possibilities.

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