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Life With Arrhythmia: Treatment Options & Lifestyle Changes For Your Cardiac Health

A doctor trying to touch a virtual heart, highlighted in red to symbolize Arrhythmia.
December 9, 2023
by Dr. Karthigesan

Have you ever paid attention to the lub-dub of your heart? It is something we often take for granted until the lub-dub symphony is disrupted by irregular heart rhythms or arrhythmias.

Understanding Arrhythmia: The Inharmonious Heartbeat

Your heart just doesn’t “beat.” It is an intricately designed workflow of electrical signals and muscle contractions that produce one perfect heartbeat. This orchestrated function commences when your heart is formed in the foetal stage.

Any disruption to this orchestra results in an abnormal heartbeat or Arrhythmia. Also known as Dysrhythmia, the disruption can occur in any part of the heart and vary in pace. In other words, Arrhythmias can be slow, fast, too slow, too fast, or just irregular.

Arrhythmias occur in about 1.5% to 5% of people, and not all are life-threatening. That said, it does not mean you should ignore an episode of Arrhythmia. If you experience an irregular heartbeat, seek medical attention immediately to determine the cause and necessary action.

Factors That Increase the Risk of Arrhythmias

Anyone can experience Arrhythmias. However, some risk factors increase the susceptibility to irregular heartbeats, such as:

  • Age
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea[Snoring]
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Genetic predisposition[Hereditary]
  • Smoking and Alcoholism habits
  • High intake of caffeinated drinks and foods
  • Obesity {Body Mass Index (BMI) above 30}
  • Intake of herbal supplements and cold medication
  • Cardiac-related surgeries or treatments(Like angioplasty, bypass surgery, valve surgery, etc].

Sometimes, arrhythmias may be serious and more than just an irregular heartbeat. Without immediate diagnosis and treatment, the issue can lead to further complications for your heart and brain.

6 Health Complications Causes By Arrhythmia

Untreated arrhythmias can cause:

  1. Sudden Cardiac arrest where your heart stops beating all of a sudden.
  2. Heart failure or Cardiomyopathy caused by repetitive arrhythmias. Cardiomyopathy occurs due to the inadequate pumping of the heart to supply blood to the rest of your body. It is a serious condition which can lead to heart failure.
  3. Poor memory and cognitive issues like Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia may occur due to inadequate blood flow to the brain.
  4. Stroke, where the blood pools in the upper heart chambers, leading to blood clots that can break away and travel to the brain.
  5. Other types of arrhythmia which can occur when the initial arrhythmic episode is not addressed on time.

Arrhythmia Diagnosis & Treatment: What to Expect

To diagnose an arrhythmia, doctors will evaluate your symptoms, physical health and medical history. They will also recommend the following diagnostic tests to ascertain the causes and your cardiac health:

  • Blood tests to evaluate genetic cardiac issues and your electrolyte levels
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Echocardiogram
  • Cardiac Catheterization (Angiogram)
  • Ambulatory ECG monitoring (Holter Monitor and External Loop Recorder)
  • Heart MRI
  • Stress tests {Treadmill Test}
  • Cardiac CT Scan/Angiogram

Treatment For Arrhythmia: 5 Options to Improve Your Arrhythmic Heart

Generally, arrhythmia treatments depend on how fast or slow your heartbeat is. Also, since some arrhythmias do not require treatment, only a thorough check-up will indicate the need for further treatment.

It is vital to document your arrhythmic episodes and find the root cause of the problem. Your doctor will run tests to determine if your arrhythmia is normal or if it bears clinical significance that increases your risk for more serious complications. Your doctor will recommend a treatment plan if your tests show significant risks and abnormalities.

Your doctor may recommend the following options depending on your condition:

1. Medication

Medications for arrhythmias depend on the irregularity of your heartbeat and the impending complications. If you are tachycardic (if your heart rate is over a hundred beats per minute), your doctor will prescribe medications to control your heart rate and rhythm. If you suffer from atrial fibrillation, you may be prescribed blood thinners to prevent the formation of blood clots.

2. Cardiac therapies

Along with medication, some people may require specific therapies to treat arrhythmias. Your doctor may recommend Cardioversion, Vagal maneuvers and catheter ablation.

3. Lifestyle changes

Even the simplest lifestyle changes can help prevent arrhythmias and alleviate its severity. Diet modifications, more physical activity, and quitting alcohol and smoking, and reducing stress-inducing factors will aid in maintaining your cardiac health.

4. Cardiac devices

Sometimes, your arrhythmia may require something more than medications and non-surgical procedures to rectify it. Your doctor may recommend implanting cardiac devices like permanent pacemakers, ICD( Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator), CRT (Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy), and BiV-ICD/CRT-D(Biventricular pacemaker Plus Defibrillator)

5. Cardiac surgeries

If your arrhythmia is more severe, you may require major procedures like mitral valve repair/replacement with the maze procedure or Coronary Bypass Surgery, etc.

Redefining Your Lifestyle for Easier Arrhythmia Management

To manage arrhythmia, it's important to live a healthy lifestyle. This means making good choices that will help you stay healthy and reduce your risk of developing arrhythmia. Remember, a healthy lifestyle is key to living a happy and healthy life!

Here are five simple lifestyle modifications to make life easier with arrhythmia.

1. Mindful medication intake

  • Take medication as prescribed by the doctor.
  • Always consult your doctor before stopping any medication.
  • Inform your doctor of any side effects of the medication.
  • Keep your doctor informed of other supplements, drugs, and over-the-counter medicines.

2. Keeping risk factors at bay

  • Shed the excess weight and maintain an ideal BMI.
  • Reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Keep Blood Sugar under control.
  • Quit smoking, drinking, and vaping for good.
  • Stay physically active and avoid a sedentary lifestyle.

3. Adopting a heart-healthy diet

An arrhythmic episode is also an indication to modify your diet intake by quitting fatty foods and increasing heart-healthy foods like:

  • Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables rich in fibre.
  • Anti-inflammatory and omega-3-rich foods like salmon and walnuts.
  • Antioxidants like berries and dark chocolate to prevent heart damage.
  • Low-sodium diet to keep hypertension at bay.

3. Better sleeping habits

Irregular and inadequate sleep is the root cause of most chronic diseases and heart conditions. You should prioritise at least 7-8 hours of sleep every day and practise a sleep schedule even on weekends. If you have trouble sleeping, it is best to check and rectify the issue.

4. Incorporate a daily workout routine

An arrhythmic heart requires physical activity to prevent the condition from worsening. Regular physical activity can help manage arrhythmia, but consult your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.

Give the Right Cardiac Care For Your Heart

All arrhythmias require immediate medical attention. It is for your doctor to tell you whether your arrhythmia is serious or not and prescribe the right treatment for it. Do not take your symptoms for granted or resort to over-the-counter medication.

Kindly book your appointment for a consultation with Dr. Karthigesan, the leading electrophysiologist in Chennai to have your heart condition checked at the earliest.
Remember to talk to your doctor and follow his recommendations diligently.

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