It's something we all take for granted: The regular rhythm that our heart keeps, day in and day out. It slows down when we're resting and speeds up when we see an old flame, but it's still predictable.
Unless it isn't.
Cardiac arrhythmias — abnormal heart rhythms that represent problems with the electric impulses that go through your heart — affect millions of Americans.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that atrial fibrillation, the most common cardiac arrhythmia, affects between 2.7 million and 6.1 million people in the United States. Anyone of any age may be affected by a cardiac arrhythmia, though risk of atrial fibrillation, a specific cardiac arrhythmia, increases with age.
Fortunately, developments in modern technology have made the condition much more livable. Arrhythmia treatment helps people extend their lifespan and engage in meaningful activities.
Don't Let Arrhythmia Symptoms Slow You Down
Treatment options for a cardiac arrhythmia depend on the type of arrhythmia occurring. Symptoms may include fatigue, weakness, loss of energy, chest pain, shortness of breath and many other symptoms. The symptoms may affect one's lifestyle, and may also lead to concern about the potential complications that could impede normal life activities.
Through developments in modern technology, effective treatments are thankfully available to help manage these symptoms and the arrhythmia allowing individuals to do the things they love.
Arrhythmia Treatment Options
It's important to discuss your individual circumstances and arrhythmia with your physician, but in general, there are three treatment approaches for cardiac arrhythmia:
Medications have the main benefit of being noninvasive and your doctor can adjust the dosage as needed. However, medications can have unintended side effects. One should take medications as prescribed to maximize effectiveness. While medication may not cure the arrhythmia, one may feel better taking them and medications may be prescribed in conjunction with another method of treating the heart's abnormal rhythm.
- Ablation Therapy
A cardiac ablation can abolish abnormal electrical impulses in the heart, making the heart beat correctly. These procedures are performed through a minimally invasive catheter based procedure using catheters that are inserted into the body through major blood vessels in the leg.
An important part of ablation therapy is knowing where to work, and this is done by gathering data on the abnormal heart rhythm itself, called mapping. New technology makes this information-gathering or mapping process more accurate than ever. Sophisticated mapping systems provide doctors with real-time information and characterize the electrical impulses of your heart, making the procedure more precise than ever.
- Implanted Devices
If medicine and ablation are not options or are not effective to control arrhythmia, some people require a pacemaker to reduce their symptoms.
Pacemaker technology is constantly evolving, and today's pacemakers are nothing short of a medical miracle.
For example, newer pacemakers are quite small and can wirelessly send information about the heart's rhythm directly to your doctor or clinic and allows one to receive MRI imaging if/when needed.
The main goal of any arrhythmia treatment is to restore quality of life. In most people, heart-healthy exercise and increasing activity are an important part of staying well after a procedure. Patients are also encouraged to eat a healthy diet, stay connected with loved ones and attend regular follow-ups with their doctor.
Through today's technology, patients have options to address the symptoms of arrhythmia.