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Living With An Abnormal Heart Rhythm

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If youve been diagnosed with an abnormal heart rhythm, you may wonder how serious your condition is and what it means for the future.

It’s also normal to experience a range of emotions such as fear, uncertainty, anxiety and low mood. If you are worried about your thoughts or how you are feeling, talk to your doctor and seek support from your loved ones.

To help manage your condition:

  • identify your abnormal heart rhythm triggers
  • take your medicines as prescribed
  • make healthy lifestyle changes including managing stress, quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, following a heart-healthy eating pattern and staying active

Symptoms Of A Fast Heart Rate

Many people dont have symptoms when they find out they have a fast heart rate. They often just notice it when checking their pulse rate, or from a blood pressure machine or a Fitbit type accessory. Some patients may feel tired, short of breath, dizzy or fatigued. If the heart rate is particularly fast people may notice a thumping sensation or palpitations. If the heart rate is particularly fast, there may be a sensation of light-headedness or feeling of faintness. In the case of SVT that comes and goes at unpredictable times, there may be intermittent palpitations and light-headedness. When the palpitations come on, some patients may have associated chest pain that on occasion can point to underlying heart artery disease. If the palpitations are more serious, people may pass out as a result.

Rapid Breathing Rapid Heart Rate And Shortness Of Breath

Reviewed on 2/28/2022

These symptoms can all be present with conditions including asthma attacks, heart rhythm disorders, as well as acute stress reactions and anxiety or panic attacks. Strenuous exercise or physical activity may also produce similar symptoms that resolve quickly. If you are concerned about these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

While the list below can be considered as a guide to educate yourself about these conditions, this is not a substitute for a diagnosis from a health care provider. There are many other medical conditions that also can be associated with your symptoms and signs. Here are a number of those from MedicineNet:

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What Are Heart Palpitations

Most of the time you wont notice your heartbeat, but if you suddenly become aware of it, this may concern you or come as a surprise. The feeling of being aware of your heart beating is described as a palpitation.

Palpitations can range from simply being aware of your hearts activity to the sensation of it beating faster and harder than usual. It can sometimes feel like your heart is missing beats or you have a heart flutter.

Changes to your heartbeat are usually not serious. But always see your doctor if you have palpitations or feel you have an irregular heart beat.

Dial triple zero if you have heart palpitations along with these symptoms:

  • severe shortness of breath
  • fainting or blackouts

Medicines To Reduce The Risk Of A Stroke

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The way the heart beats in atrial fibrillation means that there is a risk of blood clots forming in the heart chambers. If these get into the bloodstream, they can cause a stroke .

Your doctor will assess your risk to minimise your chance of a stroke. They will consider your age and whether you have a history of any of the following:

You will be classed as having a high, moderate or low risk of a stroke and will be given medication according to your risk.

Depending on your level of risk, you may be prescribed warfarin.

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Congestive Heart Failure Drugs

There are several medications that can be used to treat CHF, including ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, and more.

ACE inhibitors

Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors open up narrowed blood vessels to improve blood flow. Vasodilators are another option if you cant tolerate ACE inhibitors.

You may be prescribed one of the following:

voluntary recall of 5 lots of the drug Accupril due to the presence of nitrosamine. Nitrosamine, a known carcinogen with the potential to cause cancer, was found to exist in the drug at levels greater than the Acceptable Daily Intake as determined by the FDA. This recall is specific only to a handful of lot numbers and does not affect all Accupril tablets made by Pfizer. If you take Accupril tablets, talk with your pharmacist or doctor and they will help you determine if your medication has been impacted by the recall.

ACE inhibitors shouldnt be taken with the following medications without consulting a doctor, because they may cause an adverse reaction:

  • Potassium-sparing diuretics and potassium supplements. These diuretics can cause potassium buildup in the blood, which may lead to abnormal heart rhythms. Examples include: riamterene , eplerenone , and spironolactone .
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs .NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen, can cause sodium and water retention. This may reduce the ACE inhibitors effect on your blood pressure.


This may be achieved with:


When To See A Doctor

A person should seek help for any change in heart rhythm or heart rate because it can be a sign of an underlying problem.

A doctor may carry out tests and order a Holter monitor. This records heart activity. It can monitor heart rhythms and may help with diagnosis.

A person needs urgent medical attention if they have a history of heart disease or signs of a heart attack, such as chest pain.

Here are some questions people often ask about heart palpitations at night.

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Can Tachycardia Go Away

If you have sinus tachycardia, your symptoms will go away once the fear, anxiety or other emotion that caused it ends. For most other types of tachycardia, youll need medication or even a procedure to keep your symptoms from coming back.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Tachycardia symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on which type of tachycardia you have. For peace of mind, talk to your healthcare provider if youre having symptoms. They can tell you if you have a reason to be concerned. Keep taking the medicines your provider prescribed for you, especially heart medicines. Dont stop taking them without your healthcare providers approval. And be sure to keep going to all of your follow-up appointments.

  • American College of Cardiology. Supraventricular Tachycardia: What Increases Your Risk? Accessed 10/3/2022.
  • American Heart Association. Multiple pages reviewed. Accessed 10/3/2022.
  • Heart Rhythm Society. Early Warning Signs. Accessed 10/3/2022.
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What is an Arrhythmia? Accessed 10/3/2022.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services.Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services.Policy

What Tests Diagnose Pulmonary Hypertension

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Your provider may use several different tests for different purposes.

These tests measure the blood pressure in your pulmonary arteries:

  • Right heart catheterization: This test is also called pulmonary artery catheterization. It measures the pressure inside your pulmonary arteries and checks how much blood your heart can pump per minute.
  • Doppler echocardiogram: A Doppler echo uses sound waves to show how your right ventricle is working. It also measures blood flow through your heart valves. It allows your provider to calculate your systolic pulmonary artery pressure.

These tests look for the underlying cause of pulmonary hypertension:

  • Blood tests: Check for a range of issues related to organ function, hormone levels and infections. Specific blood tests include a complete metabolic panel and a complete blood count.
  • Chest CT scan: Looks for blood clots and other lung conditions that may be causing your pulmonary hypertension or making it worse.
  • Chest X-ray: Shows if your right ventricle or pulmonary arteries are bigger than they should be.
  • Polysomnogram : This overnight sleep test checks if you have sleep apnea.
  • Pulmonary ventilation/perfusion scan: Looks for blood clots in your lungs.

Your provider may also perform a six-minute walk test. This test shows how much exercise you can handle and how much oxygen is circulating in your blood as you exercise. The results indicate if your pulmonary hypertension is mild or severe.

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How Accurate Are Electrocardiograms

An electrocardiogram is a representation of the electrical activity of the heart in multiple views. It records about 12 seconds and patients with palpitations may or may not have an abnormality on their EKG during that time. That is why many physicians use ambulatory EKGs or Holter monitors to try to make a diagnosis.

The other benefit of the standard EKG is that it may reveal evidence of other things that may be wrong with the heart such as an old heart attack or other electrical abnormalities that may provide important clues to an underlying diagnosis that the palpitations represent. So an electrocardiogram is a valuable part of a heart evaluation, but is not particularly sensitive for detecting heart rhythm abnormalities.

What Causes A Low Oxygen Saturation And High Heart Rate

There are several conditions and situations that can cause people to experience low oxygen saturation and a high heart rate. This can include people with lung diseases like COPD or pulmonary fibrosis, people with breathing conditions like asthma or bronchitis, people experiencing high altitudes and people with sleep apnea. Very often, if you have a condition that causes breathlessness, you will experience a lower oxygen saturation and higher heart rate as a result. However, do be aware that some conditions, like heart failure and skeletal muscle abnormalities, can combine with conditions like COPD to cause breathlessness without a low oxygen saturation level.

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What You Should Do During A Heart Attack

If you think you are having a heart attack, you or someone nearby should call emergency services immediately. Its unsafe to drive yourself to the hospital during a heart attack, so call an ambulance. While you may feel awake and alert enough to drive, the chest pain could get so severe that you may have trouble breathing or difficulty thinking clearly.

What Causes Pulmonary Hypertension

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Causes of pulmonary hypertension vary widely depending on the type of PH you have. They include a range of diseases and underlying conditions as well as environmental exposures .

Group 1 PH due to pulmonary arterial hypertension

There are many causes of pulmonary arterial hypertension. They include:

Some people develop PAH without any clear cause. These cases are known as idiopathic.

Group 2 PH due to left-sided heart disease

Heart problems are a common cause of pulmonary hypertension. Because the left and right sides of your heart work together, a problem with the left side also affects the right side. The right side of your heart is responsible for pumping blood into your pulmonary arteries. So, left-sided heart problems cause a chain reaction that affects the rest of your heart, your pulmonary arteries and your lungs.

Left-sided heart problems that can cause pulmonary hypertension include:

Group 3 PH due to lung disease or hypoxia

Lung problems are another common cause of pulmonary hypertension. Some people with left-sided heart disease also have lung disease or a lack of oxygen .

Lung issues that can cause pulmonary hypertension include:

Group 4 PH due to blockages in your lungs

This form of PH is usually caused by chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension . CTEPH is a condition that involves blood clots and scarring in the arteries in your lungs.

Group 5 PH due to other disorders

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What Are The Health Risks Of Experiencing Heart Palpitations

The irregularity of the heart rhythm per se usually does no damage to the heart itself. Patients with a very rapid heart over a long period of time do run a risk of developing enlargement and failure of the heart.

We see heart enlargment with a very common cause of palpitations called atrial fibrillation. Patients can be in atrial fibrillation for many years without harm, but some patients with very little symptoms may have too rapid and irregular a rhythm present with symptoms of heart failure. There may also be some increased risk of stroke because of blood clots that can form in association with atrial fibrillation.

What Are The First Symptoms Of Pulmonary Hypertension

The first symptom of pulmonary hypertension is shortness of breath during your daily activities. These may include climbing stairs or grocery shopping. You may also feel short of breath when you exercise.

At the start of pulmonary hypertension, you may not have any symptoms. When you do start to notice symptoms, they may be mild. But PH symptoms get worse over time, making it harder for you to do your usual activities.

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How Can I Tell If I Have Developed A Heart Problem After Covid

In some people, heart rates can vary from fast to slow, unrelated to exertion, for no apparent reason. But, Post says, shortness of breath, chest pain or palpitations after having COVID-19 is a common complaint. Any of these problems could be related to the heart, but they could also be due to other factors, including the aftermath of being very ill, prolonged inactivity and spending weeks convalescing in bed.

What Are The Different Types Of Pulmonary Hypertension

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The World Health Organization divides pulmonary hypertension into five groups based on its cause.

  • Group 1 PH due to pulmonary arterial hypertension . PAH has many different causes, ranging from underlying diseases to certain drugs. PAH makes your pulmonary arteries become narrow, thick or stiff. Less blood can flow through, which raises the pressure in your pulmonary arteries.
  • Group 2 PH due to left-sided heart disease. The left side of your heart pumps out blood to your entire body. If theres a problem on this side of your heart, it affects the right side of your heart and your entire pulmonary circuit. Blood backs up in your heart, raising the pressure in your pulmonary arteries.
  • Group 3 PH due to lung disease or hypoxia. Certain lung problems cause the arteries in your lungs to tighten. Less blood can flow through your lungs, raising the pressure in your pulmonary arteries.
  • Group 4 PH due to blockages in your lungs. Blood clots or scars from blood clots prevent your blood from flowing normally through your lungs. This puts more stress on the right side of your heart and raises pulmonary blood pressure.
  • Group 5 PH due to other disorders. PH occurs along with other conditions like blood disorders and metabolic disorders. The exact mechanisms for how the condition triggers PH arent always clear.

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Treatment For Abnormal Heart Rhythms

Treatment for an abnormal rhythm depends on its cause and how much its affecting your health and lifestyle. Its important to remember that not all abnormal rhythms are dangerous or life-threatening.

Treatments for abnormal heart rhythms include:

  • a small electronic device that electrically stimulates the heart to maintain a regular heart rhythm
  • surgery to remove or inactivate the malfunctioning area of the heart
  • defibrillation use of a mild electrical current to reset your heart rhythm. Defibrillation is usually given in an emergency situation.

How Are Heart Palpitations Managed

If you have heart palpitations, or irregular or rapid heartbeats, there are a number of things you can do:

  • Try to sit down and relax or find somewhere quiet to rest.
  • Keep yourself calm and in a comfortable position.
  • Try not to panic as this can make your symptoms worse.
  • You may find it helpful to loosen any restrictive clothing that can affect your breathing, such as your collar button and tie.
  • Avoid any stimulants that could make your palpitations worse this includes caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and recreational drugs.

If you are concerned about your heart palpitations, please consult your doctor.

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About Abnormal Heart Rhythms

Your heart is a muscle that pumps blood, oxygen and important nutrients to all parts of your body.

Normally, the pumping action of your heart is controlled by your hearts electrical system. In a healthy heart, regular electrical signals cause the heart to contract and relax in a steady rhythm of 60 to 100 beats per minute.

Sometimes, your hearts electrical system may not work properly because of heart disease, some medicines, or sometimes for no known reason. Changes in your hearts electrical system can cause abnormal heart rhythms, also called arrhythmias.

Reasons Your Heart Rate Is High

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Youve probably noticed that your heart rate rises when you exercise and that it drops when youre lying in bed. But does your heart rate ever feel elevated for no apparent reason?

Having an increased heart rate isnt a health condition in and of itself rather, its a symptom caused by any number of circumstances. It may be a reaction to something thats happening in your life, or it may be caused by a health condition.

When you feel your heart pounding in your chest unexpectedly, dont jump to conclusions that theres something wrong with your heart, but if the problem continues without an explainable and simple cause, see a doctor to discuss your concerns, says interventional cardiologist, Ali Moosvi, M.D.

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Is Oxygen Level 95 A Normal O2 Saturation Level

There are a lot of factors when it comes to your normal oxygen saturation level, and if you have COPD, you might find that your normal O2 saturation levels are lower than the normal range. While a normal reading for a healthy person is typically between 100% and 95%, a person with COPD may maintain an oxygen level of 94. Talk to your doctor about what a normal oxygen level is for you, and ask about how to measure your normal O2 saturation at home. Whether you experience low oxygen saturation and high heart rate, or high oxygen levels with breathlessness, let your doctor know if you experience shortness of breath. It is especially important if you have normal O2 saturation levels as it may indicate the need for other interventions and treatment.

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