Describing a heart arrhythmia as “an irregular heartbeat”, Dr Sultan said this “means your heart is out of its usual rhythm occasionally or permanently”. “Early symptoms or signs that you might be experiencing an arrhythmia can include a feeling that your heart has skipped or missed a beat,” said Dr Sultan. Alternatively, some people may feel as though they have “taken a deep breath”, or that there are “butterflies in your chest”.
This “fluttering” within the chest might be accompanied by “blacking out or collapsing”.
There can be dizziness while standing up, a feeling of faintness, shortness of breath, or chest pain.
Extreme fatigue or lethargy can be a sign of heart arrhythmia, the cardiologist added.
Dr Sultan added: “You could have palpitations even if your heart is healthy.
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“Palpitations or arrhythmia can be caused by abnormal heart electrical pathways, heart muscle disease, an electrolyte imbalance in your blood, [or] medications.”
Examples of medication that could affect the heart may include antibiotics, antidepressants, and stimulant treatment for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
Even lifestyle choices can impact a person’s heartbeat, such as “alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, recreational drug misuse, acid reflux and exercise”.
Dr Sultan said: “Recently, Covid has led to palpitations during recovery and as part of long Covid.”
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As for treatment, in certain circumstances, medication might be prescribed to treat an uneven heart rhythm.
Dr Sultan stated: “Depending upon the nature and origin of the arrhythmia, the treatment may include medical treatment.”
Other treatments could be “cardioversion or an invasive form of investigation or treatment”.
Dr Sultan warned: “The condition can be deadly when signs are ignored and untreated.
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“Without the right treatment, an uneven heart rhythm could lead to serious problems such as heart failure, stroke or cardiac arrest.”
The “most important point to make is that a heart arrhythmia can be serious”.
However, a heart arrhythmia, for some, “could also be a ‘one-off’ and nothing to worry about”.
Dr Sultan advised: “If you recognise the signs, you should get medical advice straight away to determine whether further treatment is required.”
Dr Ayyaz Sultan (MBBS FRCP FACC FAHA) is the consultant cardiologist at Pall Mall Medical.
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