Living With Heart Rhythms
Living With Heart Rhythms
Many arrhythmias are harmless. It's common to have an occasional extra heartbeat and not even be aware of it, or to only have mild palpitations. People who have harmless arrhythmias can live healthy lives and usually don't need treatment for their arrhythmias.
Even people who have serious arrhythmias often are treated successfully and lead normal lives.
At The Valley Hospital, The Arrhythmia Institute, we have successfully treated hundreds of patients throughout the tri-state area. We are happy to share with you some of their thoughts on the quality of care we have provided to them and their families.
“I can't tell you how happy you've made me and my family. I know this is a miracle and you've made it come true. Since I came home Wednesday not an hour has gone by that I haven't thanked God for answering my prayers and for allowing you to use your extreme intelligence and competence to cure me. If it wasn't for you I'd still be living a semi-miserable life. I pray that God always blesses you and makes you and your family as happy as I am!”
“I want to express my deep appreciation to you and your wonderful team for giving me back my athletic life. As you know, the ablation appears to be a complete success. I have been around academic medicine for a long time, and to find a group of patient-oriented people that you have in your team is a rarity. Please extend my appreciation to all. I felt that everyone went out of their way to make me comfortable.”
“You performed a Catheter Ablation on me. I thanked you then but I think I was not completely convinced this was a permanent cure. However, now six months later, I can't express to you how pleased I am with the results. I am completely normal, never think about what my heart is doing, and I lead an active life with lots of exercise. It was the wisest choice I ever made.”
“I just wanted to drop you a line to let you know its been three months since my second ablation and I am doing great. I have not had any extra beats of any kind, and I cannot tell you how thrilling that is! After 43 years of constant problems, meeting you and having you do the ablations has been like winning the lotto for me. God bless you. Thanks.”
“I want to express my thanks to you and your operating room team for restoring my health. Before the surgery, I became exhausted from the atrial fibrillation to the point that the quality of my life was suffering badly. I am now full of life and energy thanks to the great job you did on my heart. I will always be grateful that you were able to help me. I also want to complimentThe Valley Hospital on being one of the best on the East Coast.”
“Thank you so much for getting me in as soon as possible. You have given me my life back! I no longer have to worry!! Everyone has been extremely pleasant and my stay here was a joy. Thank you.”
I consider myself lucky to have been able to have my ablation done by you. It is not often that a person is able to have one of the world's best, if not the best, physicians handle his procedure. I have to admit that the abalation procedure was more involved and complicated than I had imagined prior to the procedure. But any anxiety that I had was quickly gone for I knew I was in the hands of the very best. Thank you for that priceless gift.
Many arrhythmias are caused by underlying heart disease. Here are some tips and information to help keep your heart healthy.
Risk Factors and Prevention
Although people who appear healthy and free of heart disease can experience arrhythmias, those with underlying heart disease are at the highest risk, whether they have symptoms or lead a normal life. So, reducing heart disease is key to reducing the risk of arrhythmias. Since the underlying cause of an arrhythmia is not always clear, the best course of action is to prevent and treat heart problems such as atherosclerosis (“clogged” arteries) and high blood pressure.
Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) can affect anyone — even people who are otherwise healthy and free of heart disease. In most cases, however, they are caused by an underlying problem in the heart. The key to reducing your risk is to take the best possible care of your heart. That means reducing your risk factors for heart disease, managing your existing health conditions, following a healthy lifestyle (link to healthy living, when available) and avoiding substances that can trigger arrhythmias (link to arrhythmia triggers).
Each of the following risk factors can increase your chances of developing a heart problem that could lead to an arrhythmia:
- Coronary artery disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Excessive alcohol use
- Drug abuse
- Family history of heart disease
- Advancing age
- Certain medications, dietary supplements and herbal remedies
Reduce Your Risks
To minimize your risk of developing an arrhythmia, reduce as many of the above risk factors as you can. Granted, you can’t change your family history or your age; however, if you do have these risk factors, you should be even more vigilant about reducing the risk factors that are within your control. Here are several strategies that can help:
- Make healthy lifestyle choices – Get regular exercise and follow a heart-healthy diet that is low in fat and rich in vegetables, fruits, lean protein (such as chicken, fish and beans).
- Maintain a healthy weight – The lifestyle choices above will help. Ask your doctor for additional suggestions.
- Don’t smoke – Smoking is the largest preventable cause of heart disease. Avoid secondhand smoke, and if you smoke, quit.
- Avoid substances that can trigger arrhythmias – Limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol and other substances that can act as arrhythmia triggers.
- Reduce stress – Avoid unnecessary stress in your life, and find ways to manage or control the stress that is unavoidable.
- Get regular checkups – See your health care provider regularly, and mention any symptoms you are experiencing.
- Treat health problems that can contribute to heart disease – Keep high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and thyroid disease under control.
Monitor and Treat Existing Heart Disorders
If you do have a heart problem, get appropriate treatment to prevent it from getting worse and potentially leading to an arrhythmia. Be sure to:
- Ask your doctor whether your condition increases the risk of an arrhythmia, and how.
- Talk to your doctor about the options for monitoring and treating your condition.
- Follow your treatment plan and take all medications as prescribed.
- Report any new symptoms, or changes in existing symptoms, right away.
Everything you eat, drink and breathe affects your heart. Healthy foods, clean air and water promote good heart health. Other foods and substances, especially if consumed in excess, can set the stage for heart rhythm disorders. In addition, several types of substances can trigger arrhythmia episodes directly. People who are at risk for arrhythmias should minimize their exposure to these arrhythmia triggers.
Learn how to take your pulse. Discuss with your doctor what pulse rate is normal for you. Keep a record of changes in your pulse rate and share this information with your doctor
Caffeine is the substance most commonly associated with arrhythmias — particularly with fast heartbeats (tachycardia). Caffeinated beverages (soft drinks, coffee and tea) and foods (chocolate) can trigger heart palpitations, fluttering, pounding or racing in some people.
Heavy alcohol use is a major risk factor for high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart muscle), heart failure, stroke and arrhythmias. Used in moderation - no more than one drink per day for women or two for men - alcohol can provide heart benefits but even small amounts of alcohol can trigger arrhythmias in some people.
The stimulants in nicotine can trigger arrhythmias directly. In addition, smoking contributes to as much as one-third of all cardiovascular disease, and causes more heart and blood vessel disease, stroke, and heart-related deaths than all illegal drugs combined.
Dietary Supplements and Over-the-Counter Medications
Some herbs and other substances used in over-the-counter remedies are believed to improve abnormal heart rhythms. Others can make arrhythmias worse or can interfere with prescription heart medications. Diet pills and cold medicines can be especially problematic, because they often contain substances that act as stimulants. Always consult your health care provider before taking any medication or supplement.
While most medicines prescribed by physicians are beneficial to health, some can have detrimental side effects. Certain drugs commonly prescribed for arrhythmias, heart disease, high blood pressure and other health conditions can cause heart rhythm problems in some people. If you notice arrhythmia symptoms (palpitations, heart pounding, lightheadedness, chest discomfort) after starting a new medication, be sure to tell your health care provider.
Stimulants and Inhalants
Abusing legal or illegal drugs can lead to dangerous arrhythmias. Substance abuse can be dangerous no matter what the drug, but using stimulants or “uppers” carries a particularly high risk of triggering dangerous arrhythmias.
Airborne Pollutants and Emissions
Hundreds of substances in the air can cause arrhythmias, heart disease and other threats to health and life. In general, the highest risks are among people who are exposed to dangerous substances in the workplace, such as automobile emissions, cigarette smoke, industrial pollution, paint thinners and propane gas. If you are routinely exposed to these or other problematic substances, talk with your health care provider and your workplace environmental safety officer about how to protect yourself.
If you have an arrhythmia that requires treatment, you should:
Keep all of your medical appointments. Always bring all medicines you're taking to all of your doctor visits. This helps ensure that all of your doctors know exactly what medicines you're taking, which can help prevent medication errors.
Follow your doctor's instructions for taking medicines. Check with your doctor before taking over-the-counter medicines, nutritional supplements, or cold and allergy medicines.
Tell your doctor if you're having side effects from your medicines. Side effects could include depression and palpitations. These side effects often can be treated.
Tell your doctor if arrhythmia symptoms are getting worse or if you have new symptoms.
Allow your doctor to check you regularly if you're taking blood-thinning medicines.
If you have an arrhythmia, taking care of yourself is important. If you feel dizzy or faint, you should lie down. Don't try to walk or drive. Let your doctor know about these symptoms.
Ask your doctor whether vagal maneuvers are an option for you. These exercises, which people who have certain arrhythmias can do, may help stop a rapid heartbeat.
If you think you have a heart rhythm related disorder, contact a physician immediately.
For more information contact The Arrhythmia Institute
If you have an arrhythmia, be sure to stay current with your ongoing care and follow up appointments.
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Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute