Internist Questions Irregular Heartbeat

What should I do when I have irregular heartbeats?

I feel like my heartbeat is pretty irregular. I'm not really sure what to do, other than committing to some lifestyle changes. What should I do?

5 Answers

First, get an EKG to find out what kind of beat - atrial or ventricular, lab work to r/o thyroid disease, get good he re: drugs, caffeine, etc. then arrange for a holtet to find out how many abnormal beats/minute. Try a beta blocker if warranted, or refer to cardiologist
First of all, stop all caffeine, cold medicines, illicit drugs(ie-cocaine, amphetamine, etc) and alcohol(all of which can cause irregular heart beats and/or irregular heart rhythm.)

it is important to also see your doctor for a complete history and physical, with blood tests for thyroid function, electrolytes, CBC, liver and kidney function tests, and EKG with a long rhythm strip. (Also, anxiety is well known to cause episodic sensations of "palpitations" and/or irregular rhythm, but no cardiac abnormality or rhythm irregularity may be found.)

But, if your "irregular beats" don't appear while being tested, there may be no diagnosis made as cardiac dysrhythmias can be very episodic, fleeting, and unpredictable(and some irregular beats can be totally asymptomatic).

If no abnormalities are found and no definite diagnoses are made, and you continue having irregular beats(especially if you have any feeling of faintness, passing out, weakness, shortness of breath, or chest pain), you may need to see a cardiologist(or cardiac electrophysiologist) and have further evaluation--possibly including prolonged cardiac rhythm monitoring--long enough to hopefully pick up any irregularity, if present. Cardiac stress testing and/or echocardiogram MAY also be indicated depending on history, cardiac risk factors, cardiac physical findings, and results of EKG.

From a conceptual perspective in evaluating any cardiac irregularity or abnormal beats, it is important to answer 2 major questions:

1) Is there is any intrinsic heart disease present(ie-is there disease of the heart muscle, valves, conducting system, or coronary arteries, and

2) What type and where do the irregular beats originate, ie--are they coming from the atria(ie--the "top" chambers of the heart, which tend to be less serious) or the ventricles(ie- the "bottom" heart chambers), which tend to be more serious and possibly even life threatening.

Once it is found what type and where the abnormal beats or irregularity originates, and if there is underlying intrinsic heart disease present, proper recommendations and therapy can be formulated.
Irregular heartbeat ( commonly called palpitations) are very common. It can be from several different causes. You can start by eliminating some common culprits like caffeine which can be from daily coffee or energy drinks or sodas. Eliminating all caffeine or Limiting to 1 cup coffee/day will help. Also , increase your water intake to ~ 64 oz/day to improve your hydration. Other causes can be medications or related to your heart. I would recommended to see a doctor to get your heart checked if these simple measures are not effective in improving your symptoms.
No all irregular rhythms are the same. I strongly suggest you have further discussion with your primary physician to conduct some more tests to determine the rhythms/abnormalities and potential management
You stated that you have a cardiac arrhythmia. You need testing to evaluate the cause(s) as they may be serious. Lifestyle changes always apply but you need testing with a heart doctor. Please follow up.