Your heartbeat…it’s the rhythm of life

Your heartbeat…it’s the rhythm of life

In a healthy adult heart at rest, the SA node fires off an electrical signal to begin a heartbeat 60 to 100 times a minute.

Your heart is a complex pump designed to operate in a specific sequence at 60 and 100 beats per minute (when at rest) to move oxygen-rich blood through your body.

Its upper chambers (atria) and lower chambers (ventricles) alternately contract and relax to pump blood. A specialized electrical system in your heart keeps the chambers working in-sync.

When your heart beats irregularly, too fast, or too slow, it is arrhythmic. The American Heart Association estimates that 2.2 million Americans experience heart arrhythmia.

While some arrhythmias are harmless; others are life-threatening.

Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia – more than 100 beats per minute (bpm) when the body is a rest) stresses the heart by not giving the chambers enough time to fill up with blood.

Slow heartbeat (bradycardia – lower than 60 bpm when the body is a rest) fails to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body.

Fibrillation occurs when electrical impulses that contract the heart’s chambers fire out of sequence causing an irregular heartbeat.

Arrhythmias can cause shortness of breath, palpitations, dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, fainting, weakness, and chest pain.

They can also cause death.

Arrhythmias are the leading cause of sudden cardiac arrest.

An estimated 95 percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest die before reaching the hospital.

Treatments may include lifestyle changes, medications, implantation of an electronic device, or surgery. One advanced surgical treatment performed by The Marshfield Clinic and Ministry Health Care Heart Care Team
is minimally invasive surgical ablation that reduces complications and recovery time.

Since arrhythmias occur randomly, diagnosis is often difficult. An electrophysiologist can diagnose the likelihood of
sudden cardiac arrest by using sound waves (echocardiograms), monitors (electrocardiograms); or electrophysiology studies.

An electrophysiologist is a cardiologist who specializes in the electrical impulses of the heart. Nationwide, just one out of every 16 cardiologists has this specialized training. The Heart Care Team has multiple electrophysiologists on staff.

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