A heart arrhythmia is when the electrical pulses of the heart do not function properly. This can result in the heart beating too quickly or too slowly.
Generally, heart arrhythmias are harmless, but in other cases they can actually be life-threatening. There are treatments to regulate the heartbeat, but the suggested method is to embark on healthy lifestyle habits to make a stronger heart – heart arrhythmias are often the result of a weakened or damaged heart.
Predicting heart arrhythmias to prevent them
Researchers at McGill University have found that heart arrhythmias can be better prevented by predicting when they will occur. A fatal form of heart arrhythmias is called long QT syndrome and it commonly runs in families. The researchers’ goal was to predict alternans – abnormal electrical patterns – and they managed to do so using math.
The researchers first grew embryonic chicken heart cells so they would beat on their own. A drug was administered in order to create heartbeat abnormalities. The research team was able to predict when the normal heartbeat would switch to an abnormal one. Co-author Alvin Shrier said, “There is a transition period in which the variability of the rhythm increases and the pattern gets messy. Sometime after that transition, the alternans start. One interval is a little bit longer, and the next one is a little shorter, but with time the difference in the intervals increase and the pattern becomes very clear.” This led the researchers to create a math function to predict alternans.
Main author Thomas Quail said, “If further experiments confirm our results, we can imagine cardiac devices software could use a similar function to predict when a person’s heart is taking the first step towards alternans. This means a device could reset the heartbeat much earlier than current ones, avoiding a distressing experience for the patient and potential damage to the heart.”
Leon Glass, Leon Isadore Rosenfeld Chair in Cardiology and professor of physiology, concluded, “The work demonstrates the possibility for predicting what we call dynamical transitions. We did it for cardiac rhythms, but the math can also apply to predicting financial, ecological and climactic transitions.”
Heart arrhythmia symptoms and risk factors
- A heart attack
- Scarring of heart tissue from a previous heart attack
- Changes in the heart’s structure
- Blocked arteries to the heart
- High blood pressure
- Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism
- Drinking too much coffee or alcohol
- Drug abuse
- Certain prescription medications
- Certain dietary supplements
- Electric shock
- Air pollution
As you can see, lifestyle habits and heart damage can both equally contribute to heart arrhythmias, which is why they are often not serious.
There are two types of heart arrhythmias – known as tachycardia and bradycardia. Tachycardia refers to a fast heartbeat (over 100 beats per minute) and bradycardia refers to a slower one (below 60 beats per minute).
Factors which increase your risk of experiencing heart arrhythmias are:
- Coronary artery disease
- High blood pressure
- Congenital heart disease
- Thyroid problems
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine use
- Being stressed
Preventive measures for heart arrhythmias
There are very easy ways to protect your heart and prevent heart arrhythmias, such as:
- Eating a heart-healthy diet
- Not smoking
- Minimizing caffeine and alcohol consumption
- Reducing stress
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Lowering blood pressure
- Controlling diabetes
- Using over the counter medications with caution
Foods to avoid to prevent arrhythmias
Food plays a large role in heart health as well as preventing heart arrhythmias. But if you don’t eat well, not only will you be contributing to poor heart health, but you will also contribute to the many risk factors which increase your risk of developing a heart arrhythmia. Here is a list of foods you should avoid in order to prevent a heart arrhythmia.
- Caffeine – also found in chocolate
- Fad diets
- Herbal remedies
Home remedies for heart arrhythmia
Often a heart arrhythmia is not life threatening, so you can easily take the necessary steps to treat it from your home. Below is a list of home remedies for heart arrhythmias.
- Eat heart-healthy foods
- Quit smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Keep blood pressure and cholesterol in a healthy range
- Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all
- Get regular check-ups from your doctor
A heart arrhythmia may seem scary, but by taking a moment to understand the cause you may find out you only had too much coffee or you just need to relieve some stress. Heart arrhythmias do have the potential to be severe, so here are symptoms that will let you know if it’s time to see your doctor.
- Shortness of breath
- Fainting or near fainting
- Chest pain
If you begin to feel these symptoms, it’s advised you go see your doctor immediately.