Heart arrhythmia symptoms can be signs of less serious health conditions, but they’re important to recognise as some types of arrhythmia, such as atrial fibrillation, can lead to potentially fatal conditions like stroke.
Alongside atrial fibrillation, supraventricular tachycardia, bradycardia, heart block and ventricular fibrillation are all types of heart arrhythmia.
Atrial fibrillation is the most common type, where the heart beats irregularly and faster than normal, and supraventricular tachycardia is an abnormally fast heart rate at rest.
Bradycardia is when the heart beats more slowly than normal, heart block is when the heart beats more slowly than normal and can cause people to collapse, and ventricular fibrillation is a rare, rapid and disorganised rhythm of heartbeats that rapidly leads to loss of consciousness and sudden death if not treated immediately.
But the different variants of abnormal heart rhythm all share common symptoms, according to British Heart Foundation.
The first is palpitations, which is described as a thumping or fluttering sensation in your chest.
Others are dizziness, breathlessness, feeling tired and losing consciousness.
The charity explains: “It’s normal for your heart to beat a different rates during the day. It will be slower when you’re resting but may be faster when you are physically active, anxious or excited.
“Many people experience palpitations at some point in their lives and describe them as feeling like your heart if pounding or fluttering.
“For most people, although palpitations can be unpleasant, they’re usually harmless and don’t mean anything is wrong with your heart.
“You might also feel that your heart has missed or ‘skipped’ a beat, or that there has been an extra beat. This is called ectopic beat. Ectopic beats are very common and harmless so they don’t usually need treatment.”
You should speak to your doctor about your abnormal heart rhythms if your palpitations last a long time, don’t improve or get worse, if along with palpitations you start to feel faint or dizzy, you have a history of heart problems, or you’re concerned about the palpitations.
Your doctor will then be able to talk to you about your symptoms and the best form of treatment.
Your heart normally beats regularly at a rate of between 60 and 100 beats per minute, and depending on factors such as your age, level of fitness, activity level, degree of stress and even your temperature.
If you have atrial fibrillation, your pulse will be faster than 100 beats per minute (often as high as 160 to 180 beats per minute) and have an irregular rhythm.
Dr Sarah Brewer, Healthspan Medical Director, explained about the complications that can occur with atrial fibrillation: “Abnormal heart rhythms can cause blood to pool within the heart chambers, which can lead to blood clotting.
“If a blood clot forms within the heart this can be pumped out and travel to the brain so the first indication of having an irregular heart beat may be when you experience a stroke.
An irregular heartbeat may have no obvious underlying cause, but can be associated with ischaemic heart disease (eg angina), high blood pressure, heart valve problems, or an overactive thyroid gland.
Some diet and lifestyle factors are also associated with abnormal heart rhythms, such as drinking too much caffeine, alcohol, or being overweight which places greater strain on the heart.
For more information, visit Dr Brewer’s website.