An irregular heartbeat is usually not a cause for concern. However, if your symptoms persist, keep coming back, or if you develop chest pain, lightheadedness, or difficulty breathing, you should seek medical attention.
You should also seek treatment if you experience an irregular heartbeat with:
- High blood pressure.
- Coronary artery disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Family history of heart disease
What causes an irregular heartbeat?
The sinoatrial node in the heart transmits electrical signals that cause the heart muscles to contract and produce a regular heartbeat. Disruption in the transmission of these signals can cause an irregular heartbeat, also known as arrhythmia. Moreover, you may feel as if there are extra beats in between when you experience tachycardia.
Most arrhythmias are short-lived and may caused by the following:
What tests are used to diagnose an irregular heartbeat?
If you frequently have irregular heartbeats, one or more of the tests may be ordered:
- Echocardiogram: Involves the use of high-frequency sound waves from a hand-held wand placed on your chest. It provides pictures of the valves and chambers of the heart and helps the sonographer evaluate the pumping action of the heart.
- Exercise stress test: Requires you to run on a treadmill while the machine records the response of your heart.
- Holter monitoring: Requires wearing a portable device known as a holter monitor that records electrical activity and heartbeats for 24-48 hours.
- Genetic heart testing: Checks whether irregular heartbeats are due to an inherited heart condition.
Your doctor may perform testing to rule out underlying conditions and prescribe medications to protect your heart health.
How to maintain a healthy heart with irregular heartbeats
- Monitor your caffeine intake: If you have an irregular heartbeat after drinking caffeinated drinks such as coffee, keep an eye on how many cups you drink.
- Limit your alcohol intake: If your condition is caused by excessive alcohol consumption, restrict yourself to no more 1-2 drinks a night. If you have had a heart attack in the past or have atrial fibrillation, you should avoid even moderate drinking.
- Lose weight: Obesity and being overweight can increase your risk of irregular heartbeats. However, while losing weight can help, avoid diet plans or pills that promise rapid weight loss because they can increase your risk of complications.
- Get adequate sleep: Getting enough sleep—6-8 hours a night—helps lower your stress levels and reduce fatigue, both of which can trigger irregular heartbeats.
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