What Is Irregular heartbeat ?
The heart comprises valves, chambers, and nodes which control the pumping of the blood. If the functioning of the heart system is damaged, disturbed or compromised in some way, the way the heart beats changes.
Irregular heartbeat, also known as arrhythmia, is when the heart beats irregularly, very fast or too slow. This usually occurs when the electrical impulses which coordinate the heart beats do not work properly.
In an irregular heartbeat, one may feel as if the heart is racing or fluttering and can be quite harmless. Sometimes irregular heartbeats do not cause any symptoms or you may experience discomfort, pounding in your chest, pain or fluttering. However, sometimes heart arrhythmias can be dangerous and even life-threatening.
The most common types of irregular heartbeats are:
- Tachycardia: When the heart is beating to fast (around 60-100 beats per minute or BPM) and there are 3 types of tachycardias.
Ventricular Tachycardia: This occurs in the ventricles of the heart (lower chambers).
Supraventricular Tachycardia: This occurs in the atria or the upper chambers of the heart.
Sinus Tachycardia: This is when the heartbeat gets elevated normally when you are excited or sick and which reverts to normal when you calm down.
- Atrial Fibrillation (AFib): Irregular heartbeat that happens in the upper chambers of the heart and the heartbeat can be elevated up to 100-200 BPM.
- Atrial Flutter: Usually occurs in the right or left atrium or upper chamber of the heart.
- Bradycardia: This is when the heart rate is very slow i.e. less than 60 BPM.
- Ventricular Fibrillation (VF): This is irregular heartbeat that occurs in the ventricles of the heart and can stop the heartbeat, resulting in a cardiac arrest. This is a very serious condition and if not treated immediately, can cause death.
- Premature Contractions: This is when it appears like the heart has skipped a beat when you take the pulse and occurs because the heartbeat that is skipped if so weak or faint that it is not felt or heard. Other types of premature contractions are early beats and extra beats and these can occur both in the upper or lower chambers of the heart.
What Are The Symptoms Of Irregular heartbeat ?
Some of the noticeable symptoms are:
- Tachycardia (racing heartbeat)
- Fluttering in the chest
- Bradycardia (slow heartbeat)
- Shortness of breath, chest pain
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Sweating, paleness of skin
- Feeling faint or fainting, heart palpitations or irregular pulse
What Are The Causes Of Irregular heartbeat ?
Causes of irregular heartbeat are:
- Heart attack, scarring of the heart tissue due to an earlier heart attack.
- Coronary heart disease (blocked arteries), changes in the structure of the heart (due to cardiomyopathy, injury or illness)
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- High blood pressure, healing post-surgery of heart
- Low electrolytes and potassium
- Heart abnormalities
- Smoking, drug abuse
- Excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption
- Sleep apnea, diabetes, stress
- Certain supplements and medications (amphetamines, beta-blockers, etc)
- Being overweight
- Leading a sedentary life, unhealthy diet
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Irregular heartbeat ?
- Making healthy changes to your lifestyle can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and irregular arrhythmia.
- Follow a healthy diet.
- Have a regular exercise routine and increase physical activity.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Sleep well and aim to get around 7-9 hours of good sleep.
- Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water and fluids, as dehydration causes the blood to become thicker and the heart needs to work extra hard to pump the blood through the veins and this can cause heart palpitations.
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Irregular heartbeat ?
- Avoid smoking.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine or try and reduce their consumption.
- Avoid anger, anxiety, and stress.
- Avoid too much of usage it OTC drugs, as they contain stimulants which cause irregular heartbeat, such as medicines for cold and cough, etc.
- Avoid appetite suppressants and illegal drugs such as speed, cocaine, etc.
What Are The Best Foods For Irregular heartbeat ?
- Electrolytes like calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium help to transmit the electrical signals in the body, which are important for the efficient function of the heart. Foods like green leafy vegetables, bananas, avocados, spinach, tofu, legumes and sweet potatoes are a great source of these electrolytes.
- Eating heart-healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, unpasteurized dairy, spices, and herbs like garlic and turmeric, beans, legumes, etc. help to keep the heart healthy and prevent irregular heartbeat.
- Consuming healthy fats such as seeds, nuts, avocados, wild fish, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil help to prevent irregular heartbeat.
- Eating foods rich in fiber such as Brussels sprouts, lentils, beans, vegetables, fruits, broccoli, artichokes, peas, etc. help to prevent arrhythmia.
- Eating foods rich in complex carbohydrates such as green vegetables, starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, corn, potatoes, whole grains such as whole grain pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain bread, peas, beans, lentils, etc. can reduce the risk of irregular heartbeat.
What Are The Worst Foods For Irregular heartbeat ?
- Reduce or eliminate salt from your diet.
- Avoid foods full of saturated fats like chips, French fries, bacon, baked products, etc. from your diet.
- Avoid foods and drinks that contain caffeine such as coffee, tea, colas, energy drinks, etc. as they worsen the condition of irregular heartbeat.
- Avoid sugar and sugary foods.
- Avoid red meat, as it is bad for heart health.
What Are The Medicines For Irregular heartbeat ?
What Are The Tips To Manage Irregular heartbeat ?
- Acupuncture can be used to treat irregular heartbeat.
- Anger or stress raise the blood pressure, increase cortisol levels and cause an irregular heartbeat. Try relaxation techniques such as yoga, biofeedback, guided imagery, meditation, tai chi and breathing techniques to avoid stress and preventing irregular heartbeat.
- Supplements like vitamin D3, vitamin E, fish oil, magnesium, Coenzyme 10 and Hawthorn berry extract can help to prevent irregular heartbeat.
- Using the vagal manoeuvre, i.e. sustained, forceful coughing or sticking your fingers down your throat and making yourself gag stimulates the vagus nerve and helps to prevent irregular heartbeat.
Some home remedies for irregular heartbeat are:
- Iodine and selenium are vital in treating an irregular heartbeat and the best way to get these by consuming coral calcium.
- Himalayan rock salt contains over 70 essential trace elements and can help to prevent irregular heartbeat.
- Apple cider vinegar helps to remove chemicals and toxins that cause irregular heartbeat by increasing the blood flow to the heart. You can add 2 tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar with warm water or add a teaspoon of blackstrap molasses to the mixture helps to prevent irregular heartbeat.
- Cayenne pepper helps to increase the blood flow throughout the body and is good for the proper functioning of the heart. Adding a teaspoon of cayenne pepper to a cup of warm water can help to prevent arrhythmias.