Author: Richard R. Heuser, M.D., FACC, FACP, FESC, FSCAI
Feeling your heart skip a beat or suddenly race can be alarming. Irregular heartbeats (whether too fast or too slow) are known as “heart arrhythmias.” With most people, having the occasional heart arrhythmia is nothing to be worried about. Usually, a slightly irregular heartbeat is normal and not indicative of an underlying health problem.
For individuals over the age of 60, however, a heart arrhythmia could be a sign or symptom of a serious health issue. All patients should at least inform their primary physician of an irregular heartbeat; patients over the age of 60 are strongly urged to have a conversation with their physician about the merits of seeing a cardiologist.
How Cardiologists Diagnose Heart Arrhythmias
There are a number of tools interventional cardiologists use to diagnose heart arrhythmias. A few common ones include:
- Holter Monitor: portable electrocardiogram (ECG) device the patient wears for 24 hours. The monitor records heart rate and compares it to a patient’s log of activity.
- Echocardiogram: hand-held transducer that is placed on the chest. The echocardiogram bounces sound waves off the chest to create an image of the heart’s size, shape, and activity.
Treating Heart Arrhythmia
If an irregular heartbeat needs treatment, then your cardiologist may recommend:
- Pacemaker: a small, implantable device can help regulate your heartbeat. If you have a bradycardia (slow heartbeat), then a pacemaker can be used to speed up your heart rate.
- Vagal Maneuvers: techniques you can use at home, such as holding your breath or plunging your face into cold water. Different techniques can be effectively used to treat different arrhythmias.
- Ablation Therapy: insertion of electrode-tipped catheters into the blood vessels. Radiofrequency energy is administered via the electrode to ablate a specific area of the heart, effectively blocking an electrical pathway that causes the irregular heartbeat.
For more information about heart arrhythmias and irregularities, schedule an appointment at Phoenix Heart Center by calling 602-234-0004. Remember, if you have an irregular heartbeat, it’s critical that you inform your physician.
Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.