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Structure of the Heart

The heart has four chambers, two on the right and two on the left:

  • Two upper chambers are called atria (one is an atrium).
  • Two lower chambers are called ventricles.

The heart also has four valves that open and close to let blood flow in only one direction when the heart contracts (beats).

a heart pumping blood

Normally, your heart contracts and relaxes to a regular beat. Certain cells in your heart make electric signals that cause the heart to contract and pump blood. Our monitors capture these electrical signals through the electrodes that are attached to your chest and connected to our device. The resulting captured electrical signals show up on an electrocardiogram, ECG or EKG, recording. It is a painless, non-invasive procedure that records the heart’s electrical activity and can help diagnose arrhythmias.

Regular electrocardiograms (ECGs or EKGs) let your doctor look at your heart’s activity at one point in time during your ECG test. But abnormal heart rhythms and cardiac symptoms may come and go. That’s why your doctor may want to evaluate your heartbeat over time while you go about your normal activities. You may be asked to wear a monitor if you have fast, slow or irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias.

Play the video to see the EKG and electrical cycle of the heart

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What is Cardiac Arrythmia?

"Arrhythmia" means your heartbeat is irregular. It may feel like your heart skipped a beat, added a beat, is "fluttering," or is beating too fast (which doctors call tachycardia) or too slow (called bradycardia). Or, you might not notice anything, since some arrhythmias are "silent."

Is it Common?

YES - Very common

  • More than 3 million US cases per year
  • Requires a medical diagnosis
  • Lab tests or imaging often required
  • Treatable by a medical professional

What are the Symptoms?

There may be no symptoms. Or, symptoms may include a fluttering in the chest, chest pain, fainting, dizziness or shortness of breath

What is the Treatment?

If needed, treatment includes antiarrhythmic drugs, medical procedures, implantable devices, and surgery

Other Types of ArrhythmiasDefinitionCausesSymptoms
Bradycardia A heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute (BPM) in adults is called bradycardia. What's too slow for you may depend on your age and physical condition.
  • Problems with the sinoatrial (SA) node, sometimes called the heart's natural pacemaker
  • Problems in the conduction pathways of the heart
  • Metabolic problems such as hypothyroidism
  • Damage to the heart from heart attack or heart disease
A heart rhythm that's too slow can cause insufficient blood flow to the brain with symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting or near-fainting spells
In extreme cases, cardiac arrest may occur.
       
Tachycardia A heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute (BPM) in adults is called tachycardia The rapid heartbeat does not allow enough time for the heart to fill before it contracts so blood flow to the rest of the body is compromised.
  • Heart-related conditions such as high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Poor blood supply to the heart muscle
  • Thyroid disease
  • Certain lung diseases
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Emotional stress
In some cases, tachycardia may cause no symptoms or complications.

  • Dizziness.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Rapid pulse rate.
  • Heart palpitations — a racing, uncomfortable or irregular heartbeat or a sensation of "flopping" in the chest.
  • Chest pain.
  • Fainting (syncope)

Play the video to see the difference in heart rates

Bradycardia beats slower than normal and Tachycardia beats faster than the normal heart rate.

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Common Types of Tachycardia

Common Types of Tachycardia Definition Symptoms
Atrial Flutter In atrial flutter, your heart's upper chambers (atria) beat too quickly. This causes the heart to beat in a fast, regular rhythm. Without treatment, Atrial Flutter (AFL) can also cause another type of arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation. Some people have no symptoms with atrial flutter. Others describe the following symptoms:

  • Palpitations (a rapid heartbeat or a pounding sensation in the chest)
  • A fluttering feeling in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety
  • Weakness
Atrial fibrillation Atrial fibrillation is known as AF or AFib. It is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that commonly causes poor blood flow to the body. While the condition isn’t considered life-threatening, people with AF are five to seven times more likely to form blood clots and suffer a stroke Symptoms may start or stop suddenly. Symptoms may include:

  • Palpitations, which are sensations of a racing
  • Uncomfortable, irregular heartbeat or a flip-flopping in your chest
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
 

Play the video to see an example of Atrial Fibrilation

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Additional information on heart rhythm disorders, treatments and research is available on The Heart Rhythm Society and the American Heart Association.