From the Parish Nurse

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Dear Church Family,

     What comes to mind when you hear the word arrhythmia?  It’s a scary word to hear from your doctor.  Data collected by Scripps Health in San Diego suggests at least 1 in 18 people live with an arrhythmia.  An arrhythmia is simply an irregular heart rate and/or rhythm.  Some arrhythmias are considered “normal abnormalities” that people live with without any problem, some require medications to control, and others are dangerous and require invasive treatments to correct.  I’ll go over some better known arrhythmias. 

     There are many types of arrhythmias; they are categorized by where they originate in the heart.  The heart has 4 chambers, 2 atrium on the top and 2 ventricles on the bottom with valves in between.    Premature or extra beats of the atrium (PAC) are common and usually harmless.  They may feel like a flutter in the chest.   Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is a condition in which the electrical signal does not start in the right area causing the atrium to “quiver” instead of pump blood into the ventricle.  Beats become rapid and irregular.  Blood can pool, which may start clot formation.  An inadequate amount of blood is circulated to vital organs.  Stroke or heart failure can occur.  But don’t panic!  Many people live with this arrhythmia; with medications and diligent monitoring it can be controlled well.  Atrial flutter is a similar arrhythmia.  The atrium beats are in a regular rhythm but are too rapid and outpace the ventricle beats.  Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia (PSVT) is a very rapid heart rate that begins and ends suddenly, usually brought on with exertion.  This is not typically considered a dangerous arrhythmia.  Wolff-Parkinson-White arrhythmia (WPW) is generated in the atrium but causes the ventricles to beat too rapidly and can be life threatening.

     Ventricular Fibrillation (V-Fib) is an arrhythmia we would use an AED for.  The electrical current becomes erratic and the ventricle “quivers” instead of pumping blood out to the body.  Death can occur within a few minutes.  Defibrillation with a shock from an AED can reset the heart into a normal rhythm.  Ventricular tachycardia is when impulses make the ventricle beat too rapidly.  If this lasts only a few seconds it does not generally do harm.  However, if it is prolonged it can become V-Fib.  Premature ventricular complexes (PVC) are another “common abnormality”.  Extra heartbeats are generated from the ventricle.  They are typically not harmful.

     This was a lot of information about many different problems.  The bottom line is you can’t live without your heart.  If something doesn’t feel right, see your doctor.  All these conditions have a treatment or procedure to help make it better!  More in depth information will be in Fellowship Hall.

 God Bless, Beth