What Is Sinus Arrhythmia?
Sinus arrhythmia (SA) is a condition in which there are abnormal electrical impulses in the brain caused by abnormally high or low levels of certain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These substances affect how our bodies work and control functions such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, digestion and other vital processes. SA causes irregular heartbeat or atrial fibrillation (AF).
Symptoms of SA include:
Rapid or irregular heartbeat (AF)
Fainting spells (syncope) when standing up suddenly from sitting down or lying down abruptly after standing up suddenly from sitting down or lying down rapidly while walking.
The most common symptom is sudden death due to cardiac arrest.
In some cases, it may cause shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and confusion.
It is usually diagnosed during a physical examination, but sometimes it is discovered later.
How Does It Affect My Body?
When AF beats very fast, it can result in unconsciousness and even death. When AF beats very slow, it results in a rapid pulse and a normal heartbeat. If the heart rate increases too much, the body will stop beating properly resulting in death. The amount of time that your heart beats depends on several factors including your age and health status.
How Is It Treated?
Sinus arrhythmia is a condition that usually runs in families and is typically not life-threatening. In some cases, it may be life-threatening and requires treatment. Often, there are no clear reasons why an irregular heartbeat occurs. Also, some people may have health issues that require them to take prescription medication.
Often, the regular use of certain drugs can result in an irregular heartbeat or an SA heart rate pattern. In this case, you should consult with your doctor about changing your medication.
Some of the common drugs that may cause an irregular heart rate include:
Diuretics (water pills)
Calcium channel blockers
Anti-malarials (to treat malaria)
A fast heart rate can be harmful to a person if it is not treated. If you have an irregular heartbeat, then it is very important that you see a medical professional immediately.
You should also try to avoid the use of drugs that may be causing an irregular heartbeat and seek alternative treatment such as changing your medication or trying a different drug altogether.
How Is It Prevented?
There is no sure way to prevent SA from happening. Sometimes a person could avoid using certain drugs or change their medication altogether if they think it is affecting their heartbeat.
At times, a person may have had an irregular heartbeat since childhood or they may have fallen while playing sports when they were younger and suffered a head injury.
While it is not possible to prevent SA, you should seek immediate medical attention if there are any noticeable changes in your heart rate.
Is There Anything Else I Should Know?
It is not known how many people suffer from SA because many cases are never diagnosed properly. Some people live with SA for years without knowing about it while others are diagnosed when they go for their annual physical examination.
It is very important to keep a close eye on your heartbeat because if you experience symptoms of heart disease, such as fainting spells, shortness of breath, chest pain or dizziness, it can be the first indication that something is wrong with your heart.
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Sources & references used in this article:
Sinus arrhythmia in acute myocardial infarction by MM Wolf, GA Varigos, D Hunt… – Medical Journal of …, 1978 – Wiley Online Library
Respiratory sinus arrhythmia: a frequency dependent phenomenon by A Angelone, NA Coulter JR – Journal of Applied Physiology, 1964 – journals.physiology.org
Respiratory sinus arrhythmia in humans: how breathing pattern modulates heart rate by JA Hirsch, B Bishop – American Journal of Physiology …, 1981 – journals.physiology.org