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Abnormal Heart Rhythm

A healthy heart beats a steady 60 to 100 times each minute. Sometimes an abnormal heart rhythm develops – characterized by an irregular heartbeat at a faster or slower pace.


Atrial fibrilliation -- commonly called AFib -- is the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm. AFib varies in how long the episodes last and how frequently they take place. Common symptoms of AFib include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations -- a sensation that your heart is missing a beat or beating too fast or too hard


Your physician will discuss your symptoms, medical history and risk factors and will perform a physical exam.

The most reliable test for detecting AFib is an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). Other diagnostic tests that may help your doctor diagnosis an abnormal heart rhythm include:

  • Exercise stress tests
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • An electrophysiology study (EPS) 
  • A head-up tilt-table test
  • Lifestyle modification & treatment

Some people with arrhythmias require no treatment. Your physician may recommend  these and other improvements to your lifestyle habits to reduce your risk for heart disease:

  • Smoking cessation: if you smoke, quit.
  • Avoid foods high in saturated and trans-fats and adopt a low-fat, low-salt diet.
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Monitor your blood sugar if you have diabetes.
  • Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight. Talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program.
  • Manage your stress


Treatments may include:

  • Medication
  • Pacemaker
  • Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)
  • Cardiac ablation
  • Surgery

Long-term or frequent heart arrhythmias should not be ignored. Regular checkups by your primary care physician give you the best chance of effectively managing the disorder.