The Heart: Four Chambers Four Valves
The heart has four chambers, two on the right and two on the left:
- Two upper chambers are called atria .
- Two lower chambers are called ventricles.
The heart also has four valves that open and close to let blood flow in only one direction when the heart contracts . The four heart valves are:
- Tricuspid valve, located between the right atrium and right ventricle
- Pulmonary or pulmonic valve, between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery
- Mitral valve, between the left atrium and left ventricle
- Aortic valve, between the left ventricle and the aorta
Each valve has a set of flaps . The mitral valve has two flaps the others have three. Blood flow occurs only when there’s a difference in pressure across the valves, which causes them to open. Under normal conditions, the valves permit blood to flow in only one direction.
The heart pumps blood to the lungs and to all the body’s tissues by a sequence of highly organized contractions of the four chambers. For the heart to function properly, the four chambers must beat in an organized way.
Arrhythmia: When An Irregular Heartbeat Becomes Dangerous
A healthy heart beats as regularly as an old-fashioned pendulum clock. If it starts racing or pounding irregularly, it scares us. Not every heart stumble is threatening. Experts consulted by the Revyuh team explain with which arrhythmia you really need to see a doctor.
Some people only really notice on hot summer days how fast their heart sometimes beats or that they run out of breath at the slightest exertion.
In fact, heat and the bodys own cooling reaction to it put a strain on the circulation and require greater pumping power. Sometimes the heartbeat gets out of step. It can be harmless, but it can also end dramatically.
Prognosis Of Abnormal Heart Rhythms
Most arrhythmias neither cause symptoms nor interfere with the hearts ability to pump blood. Thus, they usually pose little or no risk, although they can cause considerable anxiety if a person becomes aware of them. However, some arrhythmias, harmless in themselves, can lead to more serious arrhythmias. Any arrhythmia that impairs the hearts ability to pump blood adequately is serious. How serious depends in part on whether the arrhythmia originates in the sinoatrial node Regulation of the Heart The heart and blood vessels constitute the cardiovascular system. The heart pumps the blood to the lungs so it can pick up oxygen and then pumps oxygen-rich blood to the body…. read more , in the atria, in the atrioventricular node, or in the ventricles. Generally, arrhythmias that originate in the ventricles are more serious than those that originate in the atria, which are more serious than those that originate in the sinoatrial node or atrioventricular node. However, there are many exceptions.
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Know Your Numbers: Maximum And Target Heart Rate By Age
This table shows target heart rate zones for different ages. Your maximum heart rate is about 220 minus your age.3
In the age category closest to yours, read across to find your target heart rates. Target heart rate during moderate intensity activities is about 50-70% of maximum heart rate, while during vigorous physical activity its about 70-85% of maximum.
The figures are averages, so use them as a general guide.
Atrial Fibrillation The Most Common Cardiac Arrhythmia
Butterflies in the stomach can signal excitement or nervousness, but fluttering in the chest can signal a short circuit in the hearts natural electrical wiring called arrhythmia. Atrial fibrillation , the most common arrhythmia, is an off-speed rhythm in the hearts upper chambers.
With atrial fibrillation, the electrical impulses that control the pumping function of the heart are disturbed. There are irregular electrical waves. The atria no longer contract, but twitch up to 600 times per minute. The atria then no longer contribute much to the pumping function of the heart. The consequences:
- The heart beats irregularly and quickly.
- The blood flows more slowly through the atria.
- The blood builds up in some areas of the atria.
Blood clots can form, which are then flushed with the blood flow to the brain, where they clog the blood vessels and cause a stroke. One in five strokes is caused by untreated atrial fibrillation.
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Living With An Arrhythmia
Most arrhythmias are manageable. This means that with the right treatment you can carry on living as you were before you were diagnosed.
Living with an abnormal heart rhythm can be emotionally challenging for you and your family. It’s important to manage anxiety and stress and get support from your GP or loved ones if needed.
You might have to think about practical matters like driving, going on holiday and returning to work after being diagnosed with an arrhythmia. If your ability to drive is affected, you must let your insurance company and the DVLA know. Your GP can advise on whether you need to do this.
If your job has an occupational health department, talk to them if you think your job role might have to be altered to better suit you.
When Should You Get An Irregular Heartbeat Checked
Having a hiccup in your heart rhythm can be uncomfortable as well as frightening. But when does an extra heartbeat or other unexpected feeling warrant a visit to your doctor?
It can be tempting to jump to the worst-case scenario when it comes to your heart, and to think that an irregular heartbeat is a sign of a serious disease, says Dr. Hummel. But it doesn’t always require treatment.
The possible causes of an irregular heartbeat can vary widely from too much caffeine to a more potentially dangerous condition of having your blood pressure skyrocket or plummet.
There are several types of irregular heartbeats. Dr. Hummel explains some people experience an extra heartbeat, a skipped beat, too fast of a beat or too slow of a beat .
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What Causes A Cats Heart To Skip Beats
Irregular heart rhythms affect many cats and are characterized by an abnormality in the cycling of electrical impulses that regulate the hearts beating. This causes the heart to beat either too fast or too slow, or sometimes to skip beats. Cats are very good at hiding problems.
When Is Irregular Pulse Serious
We are usually not aware of our pulse, with normal heart rate being 60-80 beats per minute, but when the rhythm does go awry, its easy to notice irregularities. However, some abnormal heartbeat patterns may be silent and go undetected. An irregular beat, also known as cardiac arrhythmia, is caused by dysfunctional electrical impulses, which may result in the heart beating too slow, too quickly, or with an unusual rhythm.
A one-off episode of an irregular beat is probably not something to worry about, but if the abnormal heartbeat occurs frequently or for a longer period of time, it may be more serious and worth seeing a doctor about.
At the doctors, your physician will measure your pulse or use an electrocardiogram . He/she will also ask about your symptoms.
Common symptoms of cardiac arrhythmia include:
- A feeling of pounding in your chest
- The sensation of fluttering, skipping heartbeats, known as palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness and pain in the chest
- Feeling weak or very tired
An irregular pulse will need to be carefully monitored as it could cause blood clots to form, leading to a possible stroke or heart attack.
Danger signs of a heart attack include:
- Uncomfortable fullness, pressure, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest
- Chest discomfort with fainting, lightheadedness, sweating, shortness of breath or nausea
- Pain spreading to the neck, shoulders, or arms
- Feeling nervous, anxious or cold
- Increased or irregular heart rate
- Pale skin
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Conventional Treatment For Irregular Heartbeat
If you experience dizziness, chest pain or fainting due to an arrhythmia, you may need to be treated. In order to diagnose an irregular heartbeat, a doctor listens to the rate and rhythm of your heart and for a heart murmur, an extra or unusual sound during the heartbeat. Your doctor may also check for swelling in your legs and feet because this can be a sign of heart failure. The most common test used to diagnose arrhythmias is an electrocardiogram . An EKG detects and records the hearts electrical activity. It can measure the strength and timing of electrical signals as they pass through each part of the heart.
Once youre diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia, your doctor will guide you to choose an appropriate treatment plan. Conventional treatments for an irregular heartbeat may include medications, medical procedures and surgery.
Irregular heartbeat can be treated with a pacemaker, a device thats placed under the skin of the chest or abdomen to help control an abnormal heart rhythm. When the pacemaker detects an abnormal heart rhythm, it sends an electrical pulse to make the heart beat at a normal rate again. Doctors recommend a pacemaker when the heartbeat is slower than normal. This can happen as a result of aging, damage to the heart from a heart attack or other heart conditions that affect its electrical activity.
Irregular Heartbeat Precautions
Final Thoughts on Irregular Heartbeat
What Does It Mean If My Cat Has An Irregular Heartbeat
arrhythmiaAn arrhythmia is an irregularity in the rate and/or pattern of the heartbeat. Cats of any age or sex may experience arrhythmias. Rhythm disturbances may be caused by many factors, including diseases, drug reactions, and underlying heart conditions. Signs may include weakness and difficulty breathing.
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Palpitations Of The Heart
Palpitations are a sensation or awareness of your heart beating. They may feel like your heart is racing, thumping or skipping beats. Almost everyone has had palpitations at some time in their life. They are usually associated with an abnormal heart rhythm .
Palpitations may have no obvious cause, but can be triggered by:
- physical activity
- illicit substances.
An occasional palpitation that does not affect your general health is not usually something to worry about. However, see your doctor if you have more frequent or consistent palpitations, which may be associated with a serious arrhythmia.
What Helps Against Atrial Fibrillation
In any therapy, it is important not only to treat the atrial fibrillation, but also the risk factors and underlying diseases. Stroke prophylaxis is also part of it.
If the heart keeps getting out of rhythm, a too low or too high potassium level can be to blame. The normalization of the potassium level is therefore an important part of the therapy for atrial fibrillation as well as for other cardiac arrhythmias.
The Solution For Irregular Heartbeat
The irregular heartbeat/skipped beat is usually fairly instant. The rapid heartbeat that tends to follow can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour depending on how you react to it. Panic attacks are often the biggest issue to worry about. If your skipped beat causes a panic attack, it may take you quite a while to feel fully “calm” again.
Because these rhythms can have different causes, there’s no one size fits all way of treating it. If it’s caused by adrenaline, you simply have to wait for your adrenaline levels to die down and your heartbeat will go back to normal. Once they’re in your body they’ll only stop when they’re used up.
If they’re caused by hyperventilation, the key is to simply make sure they don’t get any worse. As hard as you can, try not to compensate for your skipped beat by trying to breathe in too quickly or too much to “test” your heart. A very common reaction is taking huge breaths to make sure that your body gets enough air. But these breaths may make hyperventilation worse and cause more anxiety that leads to further symptoms.
In general, when it comes to a rapid heartbeat, the most important thing to do is simply give yourself time to relax. Walking may help a bit to calm you down, but there are otherwise very few things to do to stop the feeling of an irregular heartbeat once it starts. However, if you take steps to treat your underlying anxiety more generally, youll be less likely to experience irregular heartbeats in the first place.
Exploring New Arrhythmia Treatments
Our doctors are performing research into the underlying causes of heart arrhythmias and are using their discoveries to develop improved methods for diagnosing and treating them.
To make an appointment at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute’s Cardiac Electrophysiology Program, complete an appointment request form or call 1-855-876-2484.
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Cleveland Clinic Heart Vascular & Thoracic Institute Cardiologists And Surgeons
Choosing a doctor to treat your abnormal heart rhythm depends on where you are in your diagnosis and treatment. The following Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute Sections and Departments treat patients with Arrhythmias:
- Section of Electrophysiology and Pacing: cardiology evaluation for medical management or electrophysiology procedures or devices – Call Cardiology Appointments at toll-free 800.223.2273, extension 4-6697 or request an appointment online.
- Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery: surgery evaluation for surgical treatment for atrial fibrillation, epicardial lead placement, and in some cases if necessary, lead and device implantation and removal. For more information, please contact us.
- You may also use our MyConsult second opinion consultation using the Internet.
The Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute has specialized centers to treat certain populations of patients:
Electrical Signals Control The Pump
The heart beat begins when an electrical impulse from the sinoatrial node moves through it. The SA node is sometimes referred to as the heart’s “natural pacemaker” because it initiates impulses for the heartbeat.
The normal electrical sequence begins in the right atrium and spreads throughout the atria to the atrioventricular node. From the AV node, electrical impulses travel down a group of specialized fibers called the His-Purkinje system to all parts of the ventricles.
This exact route must be followed for the heart to pump properly. As long as the electrical impulse is transmitted normally, the heart pumps and beats at a regular pace. In an adult, a normal heart beats 60 to 100 times a minute.
Electrocardiography is a painless, non-invasive procedure that records the hearts electrical activity and can help diagnose arrhythmias.
Recognizing An Irregular Heart Rhythm
Next time you check your heart rate for optimal fat-burning potential during a workout, consider checking your rhythm as well. Atrial fibrillation, also referred to as AF, is a common heart rhythm disorder that results in a flutter in the heartbeat caused by a problem in the upper chambers, or atria, of the heart.
While atrial fibrillation is not common among young people, it can occur at any age, says Jeffry A. Lindenbaum, DO, an osteopathic family physician practicing in Yardley, Penn. However, the likelihood of developing the condition increases with age.
Everyone, especially people older than 65, should check their pulse once a month.
Those that suffer from atrial fibrillation have abnormal electrical signals going to their atria. This abnormality causes the atria to fibrillate or quiver, resulting in less oxygen-rich blood being pumped out. According to Dr. Lindenbaum, about 4% of those over age 60 and 10% of those 80 and older suffer from atrial fibrillation.
What Is An Irregularly Irregular Heartbeat
This is commonly described as varying RR intervals. The only two other rhythms that are irregularly irregular are atrial flutter with variable conduction and multifocal atrial tachycardia, or MAT. This means an ECG showing atrial fibrillation will have no visible P waves and an irregularly irregular QRS complex.
Also Know, what is the best treatment for irregular heartbeat?
- Antiarrhythmic drugs. These drugs control heart rate and include beta-blockers.
- Anticoagulant or antiplatelet therapy. These drugs reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke. These include warfarin or aspirin.
Also to know is, when should I be worried about an irregular heartbeat?
An irregular beat associated with chest pain, dizziness, fainting, or trouble catching your breath should also be checked out by a doctor, since these can be signs of something serious. Atrial fibrillation, for example, is a common cause of irregular heartbeats and can lead to stroke or blood clots.
What causes abnormal heart rhythm?
Coronary artery disease, other heart problems and previous heart surgery. Narrowed heart arteries, a heart attack, abnormal heart valves, prior heart surgery, heart failure, cardiomyopathy and other heart damage are risk factors for almost any kind of arrhythmia. High blood pressure.
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Look At Your Actions And Environment
Dr. Hummel says external factors could be causing disruptions in your heart rhythm:
- Too much caffeine or alcohol
- Eating or exercising
Dr. Hummel advises you make notes of when you experience irregular heartbeats and share this information with your doctor. Remember, not all unusual heart rhythms will require treatment. “Abnormal heartbeats can come and go, especially in young people, states Dr. Hummel.
When To Call Your Doctor
If youre on a beta blocker to decrease your heart rate or to control an abnormal rhythm , your doctor may ask you to monitor and log your heart rate. Keeping tabs on your heart rate can help your doctor determine whether to change the dosage or switch to a different medication.
If your pulse is very low or if you have frequent episodes of unexplained fast heart rates, especially if they cause you to feel weak or dizzy or faint, tell your doctor, who can decide if its an emergency. Your pulse is one tool to help get a picture of your health.
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