Cardiovascular diseases cause one in three deaths in Spain, making them the leading cause of death, even above cancer and respiratory conditions, according to the Spanish Heart Foundation. Among heart problems , arrhythmias are one of the most common .
What is an arrhythmia?
To understand what an arrhythmia is, you have to understand how the heart works. The heartbeat is produced by electrical impulses that cause the atria and ventricles to contract and relax.
These movements give rise to the two stages of the cardiac cycle: diastole and systole. Diastole occurs when the heart muscle relaxes and the chamber fills with blood while systole is due to the contraction of the heart muscle returning blood to the bloodstream.
This process occurs regularly and rhythmically, when it is altered an arrhythmia occurs, which is nothing more than a heart rhythm disorder . Arrhythmias can be due to the fact that the electrical impulse is not generated properly, originates from the wrong place or there is an alteration in the electrical conduction pathways.
What types of arrhythmias are there?
There are different types of cardiac arrhythmias, which can be classified by their origin, mode of presentation or frequency . The most common classification takes into account the speed of the heart rate :
- Tachycardia. In this type of arrhythmia, the heart rate exceeds 100 bpm at rest. If the heart beats too fast, it will not be able to complete its cycle and will not pump enough blood to the body, so that the necessary amount of oxygen will not reach some organs. That can cause dizziness, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, sudden weakness, tremor in the chest, or even fainting. Other symptoms of this type of arrhythmia are a fast heartbeat, a “jumping” feeling in the chest, and rapid heartbeat.
- Bradycardia. This type of arrhythmia refers to a resting heartbeat rate below 60 bpm. When a person has bradycardia, the heart can’t pump enough blood either, so oxygen delivery to other organs decreases. For that reason, this type of arrhythmia is accompanied by symptoms such as fatigue or rapid tiredness during physical activity, shortness of breath, dizziness, confusion, chest pain and fainting.
It should be noted that the arrhythmia can be present all the time, in which case it is referred to as a chronic arrhythmia , or it can be intermittent and occur only on specific occasions, which is known as paroxysmal arrhythmia .
What professional treats arrhythmias?
The different types of arrhythmias do not always indicate a problem. However, if they appear frequently and at rest, it is important to see a doctor. Cardiologists are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases that affect the cardiovascular system , including the heart and blood vessels.
The treatment will basically depend on the type of cardiac arrhythmia and its cause . In the case of bradycardia, when noncardiac causes are ruled out, a pacemaker may be placed to record the electrical activity and stimulate the heart when necessary. In the case of tachycardias, it is important to treat predisposing or aggravating factors, in addition to controlling the arrhythmia with drugs that reduce heart rate . Patients at risk of life-threatening arrhythmias can be implanted with a defibrillator that delivers electrical shocks inside the heart to stop life-threatening arrhythmias.
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