Cardiac arrhythmia

An arrhythmia describes an irregular heartbeat - the heart may beat too fast, too slowly, too early, or irregularly.

Arrhythmias occur when the electrical signals to the heart that coordinate heartbeats are not working properly. For instance, some people experience irregular heartbeats, which may feel like a racing heart or fluttering.

Many heart arrhythmias are harmless; however, if they are particularly abnormal, or result from a weak or damaged heart, arrhythmias can cause serious and even potentially fatal symptoms

Fast facts on arrhythmias:

  • Some arrhythmias have no associated symptoms.
  • Symptoms of arrhythmia often include dizziness, breathlessness, and palpitations.
  • The causes of arrhythmia are varied and include diabetes, mental stress, and smoking.
  • A slow heartbeat is not always a sign of illness.

Any interruption to the electrical impulses that cause the heart to contract can result in arrhythmia.

For a person with a healthy heart, they should have a heart rate of between 60-100 beats per minute when resting.

The more fit a person is, the lower their resting heart rate.

Olympic athletes, for example, will usually have a resting heart rate of under 60 beats per minute because their hearts are very efficient.

A number of factors can cause the heart to work incorrectly, they include:

  • alcohol abuse
  • diabetes
  • drug abuse
  • excessive coffee consumption
  • heart disease like congestive heart failure
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland)
  • mental stress
  • scarring of the heart, often the result of a heart attack
  • smoking
  • some dietary supplements
  • some herbal treatments
  • some medications
  • structural changes of the heart

A healthy person will hardly ever suffer from long-term arrhythmia unless they have an external trigger, such as drug abuse or an electric shock. If there is an underlying problem, however, the electrical impulses may not be able to travel through the heart correctly, increasing the likelihood of arrhythmia.

Some patients have no symptoms, but a doctor might detect an arrhythmia during a routine examination or on an EKG.

Even if a patient notices symptoms, it does not necessarily mean there is a serious problem; for instance, some patients with life-threatening arrhythmias may have no symptoms while others with symptoms may not have a serious problem.

Symptoms depend on the type of arrhythmia; we will explain the most common below:

Symptoms of tachycardia

Tachycardia is when the heart beats quicker than normal; symptoms include:

  • breathlessness (dyspnea)
  • dizziness
  • syncope (fainting, or nearly fainting)
  • fluttering in the chest
  • chest pain
  • lightheadedness
  • sudden weakness

Symptoms of bradycardia

Bradycardia is when the heart beats slower than normal; symptoms include:

  • angina (chest pain)
  • trouble concentrating
  • confusion
  • difficulties when exercising
  • dizziness
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • lightheadedness
  • palpitations
  • shortness of breath
  • syncope (fainting or nearly fainting)
  • diaphoresis, or sweating

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is when the upper chambers of the heart beat in an irregular pattern and out of synchrony with the lower chambers. Symptoms often develop rapidly, although sometimes, there are no symptoms:

  • angina (chest pain)
  • breathlessness (dyspnea)
  • dizziness
  • palpitations
  • syncope (fainting, or nearly fainting)
  • weakness

There are several types of arrhythmia:

Atrial fibrillation

This is irregular beating of the atrial chambers - nearly always too fast. Atrial fibrillation is common and mainly affects older patients. Instead of producing a single, strong contraction, the chamber fibrillates (quivers). In some cases, the atrium can fibrillate at 350 beats per minute and, in extreme cases, up to 600.

Atrial flutter

While fibrillation consists of many random and different quivers in the atrium, atrial flutter is usually from one area in the atrium that is not conducting properly, so the abnormal heart conduction has a consistent pattern. Neither are ideal for pumping blood through the heart.

Some patients may experience both flutter and fibrillation.Atrial flutter can be a serious condition, and untreated usually leads to fibrillation. A patient with atrial flutter will typically experience 250-350 beats per minute.

Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)

A regular, abnormally rapid heartbeat. The patient experiences a burst of accelerated heartbeats that can last from a few seconds to a few hours. Typically, a patient with SVT will have a heart rate of 160-200 beats per minute. Atrial fibrillation and flutter are classified under SVTs.

Ventricular tachycardia

Abnormal electrical impulses that start in the ventricles and cause an abnormally fast heartbeat. This often happens if the heart has a scar from a previous heart attack. Usually, the ventricle will contract more than 200 times a minute.

Ventricular fibrillation

An irregular heart rhythm consisting of very rapid, uncoordinated fluttering contractions of the ventricles.The ventricles do not pump blood properly, they simply quiver. Ventricular fibrillation is life threatening and usually associated with heart disease. It is often triggered by a heart attack.

Long QT syndrome

A heart rhythm disorder that sometimes causes rapid, uncoordinated heartbeats. This can result in fainting, which may be life-threatening. It can be caused by a genetic susceptibility or certain medications.

Stroke - fibrillation (quivering) means that the heart is not pumping properly. This can cause blood to collect in pools and clots can form. If one of the clots dislodges it may travel to a brain artery, blocking it, and causing a stroke. Stroke can cause brain damage and can sometimes be fatal.

Heart failure - prolonged tachycardia or bradycardia can result in the heart not pumping enough blood to the body and its organs - this is heart failure. Treatment can usually help improve this.

Herbs that help with cardiac arrhythmia
Hawthorne berry Ctas claw plant  
60 capsules
30 capsules
(Withania somnifera)
(Astragalus membranaceus)
(Bacopa monnieri)
(Arctium lappa)
*Black Cohosh
(Cimicifuga racemosa)
(Focus vesiculosus)
*Celery seeds
(Apium graviolens)
*Chanca piedra
(Phyllanthus niruri)
*Ceylon cinnamon
(Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
*Cat's claw
(Uncaria tomentosa)
*Dandelion root
(Taraxacum officinale)
(Trigonella foenum graecum)
*Ginkgo biloba
(Ginkgo biloba)
*Horse chestnut
(Aesculus hippocastanum)
*Hawthorn berry
(Crateagus oxicanthus)
*Horny goat weed
(Epimedium sagittatum)
*Juniper berry
(Juniperus communis)
*Milk thistle
(Sylibum marianum)
(Lepidium meyenii)
*Red clover
(Trifolium pratense)
*American Skullcap
(Scutellaria lateriflora)
*Saw palmetto
(Serenoa repens/serrulata)
*Stinging nettle
(Urtica dioica)
*St John's wort
(Hypericum perforatum)
(Smilax aristolochiifolia)
*Schizandra berry
(Schisandra chinensis)
(Agnus castus)
*Valerian root
(Valeriana officinalis)
*White willow
(Salix alba)
(Achillea millefolium)
*Lion's mane
(Hericium erinaceous
(Lentinula edodes