Heart Rate Problems

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), arrhythmias are “disorders of the regular rhythmic beating of the heart”. Any change from the normal order of electrical impulses is defined as arrhythmia. These pulsations may occur too rapidly, too slowly or irregularly. There are treatments available to manage the four types of arrhythmias.


The AHA says arrhythmias that occur in a person with a healthy heart generally have little impact. However, they can be a sign of a serious problem that may potentially lead to heart disease or even abrupt cardiac death.

When the heart doesn’t beat as it should, it isn’t able to effectively pump blood. This can prevent the lungs, brain and other organs from properly functioning.


Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia. The Mayo Clinic says it affects about 2 million people in the U.S, most often the elderly. In atrial fibrillation, the electrical signals in the atrial (upper) chambers of the heart are disorganized, resulting in an irregular and frequently rapid heart rate. The fibrillating heart fails to produce the pumping action required to move blood out into the body.

Although fibrillation may have no symptoms, it can include chest pain and palpitations (a racing, irregular heartbeat). Atrial fibrillation can be corrected by retuning the heart to its regular rhythm with a procedure known as cardioversion. This can be accomplished medicinally or electrically.


Bradycardia is when the heart beats too slowly. In adults, that’s defined as a heart rate of fewer than 60 beats per minute (BPM). Sometimes adults who are very physically active have a resting heart rate slower than 60 BPM and it is not problematic.

Bradycardia may be due to problems with the sinoatrial (SA) node, sometimes referred to as the heart’s natural pacemaker, metabolic issues including hypothermia or damage caused by heart disease or a heart attack. Symptoms may include fainting spells, fatigue and dizziness. Treatment is not generally necessary. If symptoms are persistent or recurrent, bradycardia can be rectified with an artificial pacemaker.


Tachycardia is defined as a heart rate in adults that exceeds more than 100 beats per minute (BPM). According to the Mayo Clinic some people with tachycardia have heart disease. Other causes include chronic high blood pressure (hypertension) or damaged heart muscles (cardiomyopathy).

Symptoms include a racing or pounding heart, palpitations, lightheadedness and possibly fainting. Treatments may include medications to slow the heart rate and prevent blood clots, a medical device such as a pacemaker or a defibrillator and, in some cases, surgery.

Premature Contractions

According to the Mayo Clinic, premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) are extra, abnormal heartbeats that most people experience at some time in their life. These extra beats disturb your normal heart rhythm, causing you to feel a skipped beat in your chest. The AHA says the heart doesn’t really skip a beat; an extra beat is coming sooner than normal.

In most cases, treatment isn’t necessary and lifestyle changes such as eliminating tobacco and caffeine will suffice. Beta blockers which are frequently used to control high blood pressure and heart disease can help control symptoms.