A fluttering heart, heart palpitations, skipping a beat. It may be expressed in different ways, but most folks, like Marian Alpaugh know it when they feel it.
“It’s a quickening of the heart. It doesn’t stay in sync. What they try to do, they try to get it so that it’s a regular pattern,” says Marian Alphaugh, heart patient.
An irregular heartbeat is called an arrhythmia. It means the heart’s electrical impulses are out of order. The most common form is atrial fibrillation.
“There’s a normal progression of the electricity of the heart and through certain triggers and electrical reasons the top part of the heart actually fires off at quite a rapid rate. And what that can cause, is the top part is a little out of synch of the bottom part,” says Dr. Roshan Vattyham, cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.
A-fib isn’t the same for everyone. Patients may find triggers that get their heart out of whack.
“Heightened exercise can cause some triggers. The other things we try to look for is excess caffeine, sometimes dark chocolate, severe alcohol use. So there’s certainly things you can try to do to prevent it from happening,” says Dr. Vattyham.
This abnormal rhythm isn’t constant. People go in and out of A-fib. Medications may be used to regulate the heartbeat, because patients with frequent A-fib have a higher risk of stroke.
“The longer you’ve had it, the more you’re going to be in it. So in those patients you just try to control their heart rate and make sure you’re feeling okay and control your risk for strokes,” says Dr. Vattyham.
Alpaugh went on drug therapy, but also made heart healthy changes including diet and exercise.
“Very important, I go twice a week, and do aerobic exercise in the water and then come here twice a week for the strengthening,” says Alpaugh.
Responding to your heart’s rhythm and restoring it’s pace, can help you side-step unnecessary chaos.