The heart is a complex system that relies on the coordination of ‘moving parts’ such as valves directing the flow of blood between the four chambers, heart muscle and nodes, all controlled by continuous electrical signals.1

 

It usually runs smoothly, but you can imagine if the function of any of those components is disrupted, the steady heartbeat will probably be impacted in some way.1

 

When that happens, the result is a heart that beats too fast, too slow, or follows an irregular pattern of beats.1

 

Doctors call these irregularities arrhythmia (ah-RITH-me-ah).2

 

When your heart beats too fast (while resting), it’s called tachycardia. When it’s too slow, it’s called bradycardia.

 

The most common arrhythmia is Atrial Fibrillation, often abbreviated to AFib.1 It’s associated with abnormal electrical activity that overwhelms the heart’s electrical system and makes the top heart chambers (atria) beat rapidly and out of rhythm with the lower heart chambers (ventricles).3

 

Under normal circumstances, we’re not really aware of our heartbeat, it just keeps ticking along in the background, but when an irregularity occurs, we usually notice it.4 That’s when you might feel some of the following sensations:4

  • It feels like your heart is skipping a beat
  • Fluttering in your chest
  • A really fast or slow heartbeat
  • Palpitations or a feeling that something isn’t quite right with the heartbeat

 

While many arrhythmias may not be life-threatening, some can still cause complications, including the possibility of stroke in the case of AFib, so it’s best to talk to your doctor about it, especially if you also notice the following:4

  • You feel dizzy or light-headed
  • You faint
  • You feel short of breath
  • You have chest pain

 

What causes irregular heartbeats or arrythmias?

 

Arrythmias can be caused by other cardiovascular issues, such as a heart attack or congenital heart disease, high blood pressure, hypertension, and heart failure. But they are also associated with diabetes, obstructive sleep apnoea (often abbreviated to OSA), and thyroid issues.3

 

There are also several other factors that increase the risk of arrythmias, including:3

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine
  • Drug abuse (stimulants)
  • Family history
  • Some medications such as over-the-counter cold and allergy medications and weight loss or nutritional supplements (they can contain stimulants too)
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Risk also increases as we age

 

While we can’t change our family history, there are certainly some steps we can take to minimise the risk of conditions associated with irregular heartbeat. That’s why your doctor may recommend improving your diet, exercising more, and encouraging you to give up smoking and cut back on alcohol or caffeine drinks.

 

Keeping a close eye on blood pressure at home can also help your doctor identify early warning signs. These devices are very affordable and easy to use. Check out the range of the world’s leading blood pressure monitors here5, so you can keep track of your blood pressure fluctuations and your heart rate for your doctor to evaluate.

 

Always read the label and follow the directions for use. For people with high blood pressure. Consult your doctor to evaluate the readings. Check your device periodically for accuracy.

 

OMRON Blood Pressure Monitors can detect an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) which can assist with early diagnosis. Only a doctor can diagnose arrhythmia.

 

A diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation (AFIB) can only be confirmed by Electrocardiogram (ECG). If the AFIB symbol appears, consult your doctor.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/abnormal-heart-rhythms
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-arrhythmia/symptoms-causes/syc-20350668
  3. https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/conditions/heart-arrhythmia
  4. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/heart-arrhythmias
  5. Global Home Appliance Market Comprehensive Survey 2021”, Fuji Keizai Co., Ltd (data for 2020)