A heart arrhythmia is a condition in which the heart beats faster than normal, slower than normal or in an irregular pattern, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Arrhythmias are usually not considered dangerous, but in certain cases, the condition can cause hindered blood flow to the body organs.
Symptoms of a heart arrhythmia include a fluttering feeling in the chest, rapid heartbeat and chest pain, notes Mayo Clinic. In certain instances, individuals with heart arrhythmias may not experience any symptoms and may only learn of their condition during routine medical examinations. Additional symptoms can include vertigo, faintness and shortness of breath.
A normal adult heart beats between 60 and 100 times per minute, explains the American Heart Association. Arrhythmias that result in faster heart rates are referred to as tachycardia. Arrhythmias that result in slower heart rates are referred to as bradycardia. In certain instances, brief arrhythmias that result in paused or premature heartbeats do not severely affect the overall heartbeat pattern; however, the heart's performance can be hindered during longer arrhythmias, which can be life-threatening. Heart arrhythmias occur when electrical impulses that travel through the heart's sinus node are blocked or interrupted. The sinus node is also referred to as the heart's natural pacemaker. When its function is interrupted, other parts of the heart may temporarily take over to ensure the heart continues beating, leading to an irregular heartbeat.