What is Arrhythmia?

When I was in my sophomore year of college, I was under a lot of stress for a lot of reasons. I started having weird heart flutters, especially when I would lie down to go to sleep at night. It scared me enough that I drove three hours home to see my family doctor about it AND visit a heart specialist. Both of them told me that there wasn’t anything wrong with my heart, but it was still a strange and unsettling feeling to experience any sort of arrhythmia.

Your heart is a muscle. It works like a pump! You’ve got two chambers at the top (atria) and two chambers at the bottom (ventricles). An electrical impulse moves through the heart, causing your chambers to contract. The normal sequence of contractions is known as your sinus rhythm — the signal moves through the right atrium to the left atrium and down into the ventricles. As long as the signal moves normally at a regular rate, the heart beats and pumps at a normal rate.

DID YOU KNOW: For adults, the normal heart rate is between sixty and one hundred beats per minute.

An arrhythmia is any change from the normal sequence of beats. It may be so brief that you never even notice it! It may come and go, like mine did. Some arrhythmias don’t affect the overall heart rate. Arrhythmias that last for a long time can permanently change or slow your heart rate.

If you have a heart rate higher than one hundred beats per minute, that’s called tachycardia. It can cause palpitations, dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting. If you have a bradycardia, your heart rate is less than sixty beats per minute. You may experience fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting. Tachycardia can often be corrected by electric shock, like with a defibrillator. Bradycardia is usually corrected with an electronic pacemaker to help speed up the heart rhythm.