More Americans Being Diagnosed with Heart Arrhythmias

Better awareness, detection brings more cases to light

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (June 8, 2015) – Almost everyone occasionally experiences irregular heartbeats when their heart may feel as if it is racing or skipping a beat. That sensation, however, may point to a serious health issue when it begins feeling out of control or seems to happen too often.

Arrhythmia is a heart condition where the heart beats irregularly – whether that is too fast, too slow, too early or too irregular. An arrhythmia is a glitch in the heart’s rhythm and is created when the electrical impulses, which coordinate heartbeats, are not functioning properly, the American Heart Association (AHA) said. The AHA estimates that more than 4 million Americans suffer from recurrent arrhythmias.

There are two basic kinds of arrhythmias. Bradycardia is when the heart rate is too slow – beating less than 60 beats per minute. Tachycardia is when the heart rate is too fast – beating more than 100 beats per minutes. There are different subtypes of cardiac arrhythmias – some are benign and more of a nuisance whereas others can lead to serious health issues. More Americans are being diagnosed with arrhythmias today because of increased awareness and better diagnostic tools, said Abdul Wase, MD, an electrophysiologist and a fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society with The Premier Heart Associates.

Dr. Wase said most arrhythmias are treatable and even curable; however, the condition can become serious and even fatal if not discovered. 

“There are people walking around with an arrhythmia who may not know it,” Dr. Wase said. “Take, for example, atrial fibrillation – the most common type of arrhythmia where the heart can beat too fast. We know that for every A-Fib episode a person feels there are at least two asymptomatic episodes that can only be detected through monitoring.”

An arrhythmia can often have no symptoms when it is very brief. It may feel like a skipped heartbeat that a person hardly notices, the AHA said. For others, however, it can feel like a fluttering in the chest or neck. Arrhythmias that are severe or last for a long period of time can actually affect the way the heart functions. The heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body, causing symptoms such as fatigue, lightheadedness or loss of consciousness.  In extreme cases, it can cause death, the AHA said.

 Fortunately, patients today have hope through the use of advanced treatments such as medication and minimally invasive surgical procedures. Electrophysiologists like Dr. Wase first find the source of an arrhythmia before choosing the right treatment. An electrocardiogram (or EKG) is often used to diagnose arrhythmias. An EKG creates a graphic record of the heart’s electrical impulses. Other tests may include exercise stress tests and electrophysiological studies, which help map the heart’s electrical system. Arrhythmias that happen infrequently may require a monitor that can be worn up to four weeks, Dr. Wase said.

It’s important for individuals to understand the risk factors for arrhythmias since the condition can increase their chances for a heart attack or stroke. Risk factors include:

Age –Normal aging is associated with a variety of changes to a person’s cardiovascular system and studies have shown that the risk for arrhythmias increase as one gets older, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

Genetics – Men are at slightly higher risk for developing an arrhythmia than women. However, women diagnosed with it carry a longer-term risk of premature death, the AHA said. A person is at a higher risk for the condition if heart disease is part of their family history.

Certain diseases – Those with thyroid disease, diabetes and hypertension are more prone to develop an arrhythmia. 

Lifestyle choices – Tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption and stimulant drug use (including caffeine) raises a person’s risk.

Dr. Wase encourages individuals to work with their physician to take steps to manage the risk factors that can be controlled. The disorder can be avoided or lessened by simple steps such as losing weight, eating healthy, lowering cholesterol, managing hypertension and avoiding substance use.

For more information on the arrhythmias or to find a Premier Health Specialists physician near you, visit

Contact Us

Discover more about Premier Health and join us in building healthier communities in Southwest Ohio. Learn more about working at Premier Health, becoming a volunteer, and making a gift to support our mission.