A Hop Skip and a Jump Do You Have an Irregular Heartbeat

Afib Atrial Fibrillation

From time to time, your heart may “flutter” when you’re excited, nervous, or exercising hard. And if your heart’s offbeat beat—also called an arrhythmia—goes away as quickly as it came about, it might seem like no cause for concern. But it’s a good idea to know when that fleeting flutter may be putting your health at risk.

A Circuitry Problem with Many Possible Causes

A heartbeat is produced when an electrical signal travels through the four chambers of the heart. If something goes wrong with this signal, your heartbeat may speed up, slow down, or seem out of sync.

While an arrhythmia can strike anyone at any age, the condition is particularly common among older adults. The cause is often unclear. But experts have found that an arrhythmia can sometimes result from:

  • Heart disease
  • Stress
  • Caffeine
  • Tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Cough and cold medicines that contain decongestants

When Arrhythmias Spell Danger

An irregular heartbeat is often harmless and needs no treatment. But sometimes, it signals a larger problem that shouldn’t be ignored. An arrhythmia that happens on a regular basis, for instance, needs a doctor’s attention. And don’t wait to get help if your irregular heartbeat occurs with any of the following:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting
  • Light-headedness
  • Fatigue

It’s also important to talk with your doctor if you have a history of heart disease and have noticed that you sometimes have an irregular heartbeat.

Ways to Treat the Beat

  • Treatments depend on the type of arrhythmia that you have. These tips may help you manage the condition:
  • Try to come up with ways to reduce emotional stress.
  • Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol.
  • Talk with your doctor about strategies for keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level.

Your heart is in good hands. Our renowned physicians can diagnose and treat all forms of heart and vascular disease—including arrhythmia. Discover our full list of treatable conditions: