What Causes an Irregular Heartbeat?

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There are a number causes of an irregular heartbeat, including eating disorders, bulimia nervosa, atrial fibrillation, thyrotoxicosis, mitral valve prolapse and heart problems, according to Right Diagnosis. Uncommon causes include sickle cell anemia, scleroderma and chronic fatigue syndrome.

A normal heartbeat ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute, explains Mayo Clinic. Cholesterol may deposit in the heart, leading to coronary heart disease, notes Healthline. Beta blockers, which lower the symptoms of high blood pressure, and drugs that stimulate the brain, including amphetamines, are medications that can trigger an abnormal heart rhythm. A person who is healing from a heart surgery or suffering from high blood pressure may experience an abnormal heart rhythm.

A failing heart muscle is a root cause of arrhythmia, otherwise known as an irregular heartbeat, notes WebMD. A person experiencing an arrythmia may not be getting enough electrolytes in the body, including potassium or sodium. Patients who recover from heart surgery are also susceptible to problematic heartbeats.

There are certain forms of arrhythmia that are common, according to WebMD. For instance, a person who undergoes strenuous physical activity can experience what feels like skipped heart beats. Those who smoke or consume excessive caffeine may experience erratic heartbeats.

Arrhythmia means that the heart is beating out of sync, but it also means that a heart is beating too slow or fast, claims WebMD. A heart that beats excessively fast is known as tachycardia, and a slower-than-normal pace is called bradycardia. For example, a heart that beats at a fast pace is associated with a form of arrhythmia known as accessory pathway tachycardia. This occurs when there is an additional pathway in the upper and lower heart chambers, allowing the heart to work faster.

Risk factors for an abnormal heartbeat include diabetes, too much weight, history of heart problems and lack of exercise, explains Healthline. Eating foods that are enriched with fats or cholesterol may also trigger an irregular heart rate. Chest pain, sweating, lightheadedness, pale skin and difficulty breathing are symptoms of arrhythmia. An individual should exercise regularly, eat healthy and avoid smoking to avoid suffering from arrhythmia.