There are a variety of conditions and diseases that can greatly impact the health, rhythm, and overall function of the heart. Because there are a myriad of cardiac conditions and diseases with a wide range of distinctive signs, we believe it's important for our patients to be informed about the most critical ones. This article will define and describe atrial fibrillation, arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy, heart attacks, and heart failure.
Heart rhythm conditions
Heart rhythm conditions are often a sign of an underlying issue, and may even pose problems in themselves. Two of the main types of cardiac rhythm conditions include atrial fibrillation (AFIB) and arrhythmia.
Atrial Fibrillation (AFIB)
- Atrial Fibrillation (AFIB) is common in older adults and may not present obvious symptoms.
- Occurs when the atria, or upper chambers of the heart, begin to beat out of sync with the ventricles, or lower chambers of the heart.
- Is characterized by a rapid rhythm and reduces the heart's effectiveness at pumping blood.
- As a result, blood clots can form in the heart chambers, potentially reaching the brain and causing a stroke or heart failure.
- AFIB is usually caused by an existing heart condition. Other causes include high blood pressure, heart attack, and coronary artery disease.
- Symptoms include: dizziness, feeling out of breath, tiredness, a feeling of heart racing or fluttering, an uneven heartbeat, and chest pain.
- Typical treatment goals strive to restore rhythm to as close to normal as possible and preventing the formation of blood clots.
- Arrhythmia is a problem with the rhythm of the heartbeat-beating too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm.
- Many arrhythmias are harmless, but some can be life-threatening. This is because a lack of blood flow to the body can damage the brain, heart, and other organs.
- Arrhythmia can be caused by: heart disease, stress, smoking, heavy alcohol use and certain medications.
- Noticeable symptoms of arrhythmia include: fainting, dizziness, heart palpitations, weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pain.
- Treatment depends on the type and severity of irregular heart rhythm.
- In most cases, people with arrhythmias can live normal, healthy lives, but never take the risk of a "wait-and-see" approach.
- Cardiomyopathy is a broad term that refers to a disease of the heart muscle.
- The heart muscle becomes enlarged, thick, or abnormally rigid.
- As cardiomyopathy progresses, the heart becomes weaker.
- Cardiomyopathy can lead to heart rhythm problems, heart failure, and sudden cardiac arrest.
- Symptoms of cardiomyopathy generally get worse as the disease progresses.
- In some cases, patients may not experience any symptoms in the early stages.
- Common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling in the ankles, feet, and legs
- Irregular heartbeat
- Dizziness/ feeling lightheaded.
- Heart Attacks, also known as myocardial infarctions, generally come on suddenly.
- Heart attacks occur when a blood clot develops at the site of plaque in a coronary artery, suddenly cutting off most or all blood supply to that part of the heart muscle.
- Permanent heart damage or death can happen if the blood supply is not restored quickly, the heart muscle will begin to die due to lack of oxygen.
- Heart Attack Symptoms:
- Chest tightness and discomfort. Most heart attacks cause pain in the center of the chest, lasting for more than a few minutes. Discomfort may subside for a minute and then return. The sensation is an uncomfortable pressure, a feeling of swelling, fullness, or a painful squeezing.
- Pain or discomfort in other areas of the body, including one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath may occur before any feeling of discomfort arises in the chest, but most often accompanies it.
- Sweating and nausea. Breaking out in a cold sweat and feeling nauseated or lightheaded are also common symptoms of a heart attack.
Call 911 immediately if you think you may be having a heart attack.
Heart Failure (congestive heart failure)
- Heart Failure (congestive heart failure) is typically a chronic, long-standing condition.
- Heart failure occur when the heart fails to pump enough blood to maintain the needs of the body.
- Heart failure is a serious condition, but when the symptoms are managed with proper treatment, patients with heart failure can lead a normal, active life.
- The best way to prevent heart failure is to manage risk factors that lead to it, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, obesity, and diabetes.