Common Medications to Treat Heart Rhythm Issues
Just like a band doesn’t function right without its rhythm section, your body won’t function right without a heart that stays in time. When heart rhythm issues occur, a medical procedure may be necessary to get it back in rhythm. But in many cases, medications can help regulate your heart rhythm without any additional interventions.
There are two general categories of heart rhythm medications: antiarrhythmics and anticoagulants.
An antiarrhythmic medication is designed to lessen the frequency of skipped beats, palpitations and other arrhythmias you may deal with. In some cases, antiarrhythmic medications can stop such issues completely. This is usually achieved by blocking a signal occurring in the heart.
- Sodium-channel blockers slow down your heart’s electrical conduction, which can help bring relief for racing hearts.
- Beta blockers stop the effects of epinephrine, commonly known as adrenaline. They keep the heart beat stable and avoid the sort of spikes that can come from hormonal imbalance.
- Potassium-channel blockers prolong the interval between electrical signals in the heart by blocking the potassium channel.
- Calcium-channel blockers are designed to block calcium from its usual route through the heart. Calcium makes the heart pump more strongly, so blocking it can help regulate how the heart beats.
Each of these medications is used slightly differently, though they all serve the same purpose. Some medications work in multiple ways to help regulate an abnormal heart rhythm. Some focus on the heart while others may affect the whole body.
Anticoagulants can be prescribed for a number of reasons, including certain heart rhythm issues like atrial fibrillation. This heart rhythm disorder is more concerning than some other arrhythmias because it increases the risk of blood clots and stroke.
Anticoagulant medications are also known as blood thinners, as they help reduce the risk of blood clots. These drugs don’t stop clots that have already formed but they do lower the risk of new clots, which can in turn reduce the risk of stroke for patients with atrial fibrillation.
Precautions for arrythmia medications
Your Oklahoma Heart Hospital physician will prescribe medications based on your specific heart rhythm issue and other health history. Like any medicine, those used to treat arrhythmias may have side effects that patients should be aware of. Anticoagulants deliberately inhibit clotting, which can cause easier bleeding—both externally and, in some cases, internally.
Some medications may interact with foods, such as grapefruit juice or foods that are high in vitamin K. If you are taking multiple prescriptions, the drugs could interact with each other in unexpected ways as well. Be sure to tell your doctor everything you’re taking so they can help you make an informed decision about your prescriptions.
Both anticoagulants and antiarrhythmic medications should be taken exactly as prescribed and you should not stop taking these medications unless directed to do so by your doctor.
Many patients with heart rhythm issues are afraid of what the future could hold. But with medication and some lifestyle changes, most of these issues are manageable. The dedicated staff at Oklahoma Heart Hospital is here to help you manage any heart rhythm issues or other cardiac concerns. Schedule an appointment with us today.