Column: Recognizing When Your Heart Is Out Of Rhythm

Column: Recognizing When Your Heart Is Out Of Rhythm

Research shows that about five percent of people in the United States suffer from a heart arrhythmia, which is more commonly known as an irregular heartbeat. Some arrhythmias can be harmless – while others can be life threatening.


What is a heart

The heart is a pump that supplies blood to the whole body and it’s driven by an internal electrical system that coordinates the beating. When that system develops some type of issue that interrupts the electrical flow, that’s known as an arrhythmia.


What causes an

It can be anything from a heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure, medication, smoking, stress, congenital abnormalities, genetics and more. There are many different types of arrhythmias, but they can be classified into two groups — when the heart beats too fast and when it beats too slow. Our heart, just like our body, changes with age and arrhythmias can become more prevalent as a person gets older. However, young people, including teenagers, can develop arrhythmias as well.


How can I tell if I have
an arrhythmia?

Many doctors will notice that a patient has an irregular heartbeat during a routine exam. However, there are signs and symptoms to watch for, which include:

•Fluttering in the chest

•Chest pain

•Shortness of breath

•Slow or fast heartbeat



•Swollen legs

•Weight gain


I always tell patients if you notice or feel something new and out of the ordinary, seek medical attention because there could be something serious going on.


How are arrhythmias

After an arrhythmia is diagnosed, treatment will depend on the severity of the condition and is tailored to each patient. With some patients, we may keep a close eye on the issue or treat it with medication. On occasion, we also recommend doing something called an ablation. That’s when we enter the heart with a catheter, locate the area causing the irregularity and cauterize it to help resolve the issue. We have minimally-invasive procedures to help fix the problem and patients can go home the same day or the next day and do quite well.


Dr. Meir Friedman is a Cardiac Electrophysiologist with Hartford HealthCare’s Heart & Vascular Institute. For more information, or to make an appointment, call (860) 522-4158 or visit


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