Why Do Heart Rhythm Issues Happen?

A heart rhythm issue, also known as an arrhythmia, is a life-altering problem that can show up without warning. Some otherwise healthy people will live for years without a problem then suddenly show an arrhythmia where none existed before.

A sudden heart rhythm issue can be concerning and frightening to the person experiencing it. What’s wrong? Why would something like this happen? And is there any way to avoid it?

Why heart rhythm issues occur

A heart rhythm issue is a problem with the electrical system of the heart.

The electrical impulses that run your cardiac system come from a little bundle of tissue called the sinoatrial (SA) node. It sends out an electrical signal that crosses the heart starting in the right atrium where the SA node is located.

As this signal travels it hits the atrioventricular node, which slows down the electrical signal and distributes it to the various parts of the lower chambers of the heart. These lower chambers are called the ventricles. The entire system has to work correctly for a healthy, regular heartbeat to occur.

Where heart rhythm issues occur

Issues can arise at a couple of different points in this process. The first and most obvious point is at the sinoatrial node where the signals originate. If the initial timing of the signals is off, it throws everything else off as well.

It’s possible to have a block, a short circuit, or a slowdown somewhere else in the heart. These are often caused by scar tissue or occasionally (especially for short circuits) by a birth defect.

Arrhythmias can be caused by a variety of things. Sometimes it’s due to an external source like alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, drugs, medications, or stress. Sometimes it’s an internal problem like heart artery blockages, thyroid problems, heart scarring, or complications from diabetes. 

Some minor arrhythmias aren’t a problem—most people will have the occasional palpitation, skipped beat, or fluttery sensation. But arrhythmias that occur more regularly should be checked by a cardiologist who specializes in heart rhythm issues.

Finding and addressing heart rhythm issues

If you think you may have a heart rhythm issue, set up an appointment with Oklahoma Heart Hospital today. We’ll talk about your symptoms, find out if there are any underlying problems, and advise you on any lifestyle changes you can make to minimize your risk.