Complications of Arrhythmia
Most arrhythmias are harmless and have few side effects.
Some, however, affect your heart’s ability to pump blood. This can affect many
organs in the body and lead to serious complications.
When a chamber of the heart fibrillates
(quivers), it means the heart isn’t pumping blood effectively. This can cause
blood to collect in pools inside the heart chamber. Blood that sits may form
clots. If a blood clot breaks off and leaves the heart, it can enter your
circulatory system and travel throughout your body. If it sticks in a narrowed
or tapering artery in the brain, it can cause a stroke. Stroke can cause brain
damage and, in some cases, can be fatal.
Long-term tachycardia or bradycardia can
result in a weakened heart that cannot pump enough blood to the body and its
Researchers at the Intermountain Medical
Center in Salt Lake City have linked atrial fibrillation with the
development of Alzheimer’s disease. This study looked at more than 37,000
patients. Though not conclusive, these researchers found the following:
- Patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) were 44 percent more likely to
develop dementia than patients without AF.
- Patients with AF were at higher risk for all types of dementia,
- AF patients under age 70 were 130 percent more likely to develop
Alzheimer’s than those without AF.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest
The extremely fast, chaotic heartbeat of ventricular tachycardia and
ventricular fibrillation can make the lower chambers of the heart quiver. When
this happens, they may not be able to pump any blood. The result is sudden
cardiac arrest, a condition in which the heart suddenly stops effectively
pumping blood to the rest of the body. When cardiac arrest occurrs, breathing
stops as well and the patient loses consciousness. This is a medical emergency.
If not treated immediately, cardiac arrest will result in death.
Most arrhythmias have no effect on your health. Those that
do affect your health usually respond to treatment. If you have symptoms of an
arrhythmia, see your doctor. If your arrhythmia requires treatment, your doctor
will be able to advise you. There are many treatment options available. These
include lifestyle changes, medications, and implantable devices to monitor and
control your heartbeat. If your arrhythmia requires treatment, be sure that you:
- keep all medical
appointments and always bring a list of all medications you are taking
- take all your medication
as instructed by your doctor
- talk to your doctor before
taking any over-the-counter medications or supplements
- talk to your doctor about
any side effects you may be having from your medications
- tell your doctor about any
new symptoms or changes in symptoms
- get regular check-ups
To improve your outlook, make any lifestyle changes that
your doctor recommends. Take care of yourself and stay healthy. This means eat
right, get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, and avoid substances and
situations that might make your arrhythmia worse. With care, most arrhythmia
patients can live a normal life.