The adult human heart beats 60 to 100 times per minute. Unless you are an athlete, any deviation from this pattern is concerning. Arrhythmias or abnormal heart palpitations can have serious and even deadly effects. Many treatment options are available to resolve this problem. These treatment options can help a patient who is suffering from this disorder lead a better-quality life without the fear of sudden, unexpected problems.
Lifestyle changes are usually the first and easiest treatment for this disorder. The website for The National Library of Medicine reports that reducing stress, anxiety and caffeine intake can significantly help with treating palpitations or arrhythmias.
A person can also find relief by performing relaxation techniques or yoga, which will help with the reduction of stress and anxiety. Also, it is very important to get plenty of exercise and eat a heart-healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables.
The most common method of treating heart palpitations is through medication. The most common medication used is antiarrhythmics. Antiarrhythmics come in four classes. Class I antiarrhythmics are sodium channel blockers and help to slow impulse conduction in the heart. Class II is known as beta blockers and help to slow the heart rate and force contraction of the heart. Class III is potassium channel blockers and they work by improving the recovery time of cardiac cells after an impulse. Finally, Class IV is known as calcium channel blockers and they slow the heart rate by blocking the transport of calcium across cell walls.
Some other medications that are commonly used are Digoxin and Adenosine. Digoxin works to increase the strength of heart muscle contractions and also slows conduction through the AV node. Adenosine works on the adenosine receptors to slow or block conduction through the AV node. Adenosine is only used in acute arrhythmia cases because it is only available in IV forms.
A pacemaker is a tiny device that weighs less than 2 oz. It is implanted just underneath the skin around the collarbone. The American Heart Association website reports that pacemakers are commonly used to treat bradycardia, which is a slow heart beat. The pacemaker works by sensing electrical impulses from the heart and delivering an electrical impulse to correct the arrhythmia.
Patients that have ventricular tachycardia, or people with resuscitated sudden death, may need an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) surgically implanted. It is implanted under the patient's collarbone and delivers an electric shock to the heart if an arrhythmia is detected.
Most people think of defibrillation as being done when a person has stopped breathing or is in severe distress. It can be done if the person is having arrhythmias or palpitations. This process is done by placing two paddles or pads onto the front of the chest or the chest and back. Defibrillation actually helps to correct an arrhythmia by delivering an electric shock to change the abnormal rhythm.
Catheter ablation is a procedure that will be scheduled and done in a cath lab at a hospital or medical facility. The procedure destroys small portions of electrical pathways in the heart using a catheter (which are coated wires). The procedure involves mapping the heart's electrical signals and conduction through X-rays while the catheters are inserted into the heart.