Cardiologist Answers the Most Googled Questions

Share on Pinterest
People often turn to the internet for answers to common questions regarding their heart health. SDI Productions/Getty Images
  • Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for more than 900,000 deaths in 2020.
  • The American Heart Association reports that deaths related to irregular heart rhythms may be rising, especially among younger people.
  • Experts share answers to the most common questions regarding heart health, including heart arrhythmias.

Heart disease does not discriminate. As the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States, heart disease affects almost everyone.

Unsurprisingly, many people take to the internet to learn about heart disease and heart health.

To help ease curiosity and spread awareness, experts answer the following most searched questions about heart health, according to Google Trends.

Heart arrhythmia occurs when there is an abnormality in the rhythm of the heartbeat.

“This means your heart either beats too fast, a condition known as tachycardia; or too slow, also known as bradycardia; or irregularly,” Dr. Martha Gulati, a cardiologist at Cedars Sinai Heart Institute and president of the American Society of Preventive Cardiology, told Healthline.

Think of the heart as having an electrical system that serves as the timing mechanism to tell the heart when and how fast to pump, said Dr. Kevin Thomas, electrophysiologist at the Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Heart Rhythm Center.

“An arrhythmia occurs when the electrical system acts irregularly,” he told Healthline.

Arrhythmias can affect people of all ages and can be triggered by genetics, pre-existing heart conditions, as well as lifestyle habits such as smoking, unhealthy diet, and stress.

“The significance of an arrhythmia depends on what type of abnormal rhythm is occurring. Some are serious and could be life threatening if not treated, while others are not worrisome or dangerous,” said Thomas.

The most common type of arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib.

“AFib is an irregular, and often rapid heart rate, that can increase risk of stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications,” Gulati said.

The lifetime risk for AFib is one in four for all men and women over 40, according to a study published in Circulation, a journal by the American Heart Association (AHA).

While different types of arrhythmias can present with a variety of symptoms, Thomas said the most common symptoms of an arrhythmia are:

Extra beats

“Some arrhythmias, though, can be ‘silent’ and have no symptoms at all,” he said.

When arrhythmias (including AFib) last long enough to affect how well the heart works, the AHA reports that the following serious symptoms can occur:

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fainting or near-fainting spells
  • Rapid heartbeat or pounding in the chest
  • Shortness of breath and anxiety
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Alternating fast and slow heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Collapse and sudden cardiac arrest in extreme cases

One challenge of arrhythmia symptoms is that they can come and go, said Gulati.

“Sometimes, a patient makes an appointment or comes to the hospital after experiencing a cardiac symptom, and by the time they speak with a doctor, their symptoms have abated,” she said.

When patients are no longer presenting with the symptoms they experienced, it can make it difficult for doctors to treat, and scary for patients who want to understand what is happening.

“One intervention that can help break this cycle is the use of medical-grade personal digital health tools, which allow patients to access accurate, real-time heart data anytime, anywhere,” said Gulati.

She partnered with AliveCor, which offers KardiaMobile, a personal electrocardiogram (ECG) device that allows people to share findings with their doctor digitally.

Heart palpitations are perceived (felt) abnormalities of the heartbeat that can be characterized by the sensation of fast, irregular, or skipped heartbeats felt in the chest, throat, or neck.

“These can be transient and short-lived, lasting only a few seconds, or they can sustain and last for hours to days,” said Thomas.

Palpitations can be triggered by stress, anxiety, hormonal changes, or stimulants like caffeine.

“That said, heart palpitations on their own aren’t always a cause for alarm,” said Gulati. “However, if you experience heart palpitations coupled with chest pain, fainting, or severe dizziness, it is important to seek immediate medical attention.”

The causes of heart arrhythmias vary.

“Some are due to abnormal or extra electrical pathways that a patient is born with, while others are caused by damage to the heart and its electrical system as the result of prior heart attack or cardiac surgery,” said Thomas.

Sometimes arrhythmias can be triggered by increased adrenaline levels, which can be seen during infection, surgery, or other illnesses, he added.

Aging can also play a part because as people age, their hearts change.

“These age-related changes, though natural, can affect the way our hearts operate and the way electrical impulses flow through our cardiovascular system,” Gulati said.

Additionally, some arrhythmias, such as AFib, become more common as people get older and can be influenced by other conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea, and obesity, explained Thomas.

While lifestyle choices can influence overall health, managing aging and congenital or genetic factors often requires a multifaceted and personal approach, added Gulati.

“The more proactive you are about your heart health, the better. Regular check-ups and monitoring can help identify and manage these factors,” she said.

While most arrhythmias are not considered dangerous and are often left untreated, your doctor will need to determine if the arrhythmia is cause for concern and requires treatment.

“When it comes to arrhythmias, early detection and intervention can significantly impact the long-term prognosis and reduce the risk of complications, such as stroke or heart failure,” said Gulati.

The AHA states that the goals of treatment are aimed at:

  • Preventing blood clots from forming to reduce stroke risk, especially for people with AFib.
  • Keeping your heart rate within a relatively normal range.
  • Restoring a normal heart rhythm, if possible.
  • Treating heart disease or heart conditions that may be causing arrhythmia.
  • Reducing other risk factors for heart disease and stroke like coronary artery disease.

Treatments for arrhythmias depend on which type of abnormal heart rhythm is occurring. Thomas broke down which type of treatment is needed for each type of arrhythmia.

  • A pacemaker is often needed if the heart is beating abnormally slow.
  • Medications designed to suppress abnormal heartbeats/rhythms
  • Cardiac ablation, a minimally invasive surgical procedure, can help when the heart is beating too fast or irregular.
  • Non-pharmacologic interventions and lifestyle modifications, including weight loss, blood pressure control, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising, avoiding tobacco smoke and vaping, and treating sleep apnea can help manage arrhythmias.
  • A defibrillator may need to be implanted in cases where a dangerous or life threatening arrhythmia is occurring.

Source link :

Author :

Publish date : 2024-02-16 20:05:10

Copyright for syndicated content belongs to the linked Source.
Exit mobile version