Your heart is a strange and magical creature. While we usually think of it as a steady organ that keeps beating throughout our entire lifetime, in reality, it’s a highly complex and flexible organ that can change and grow with the evolution of our species. It is the most vital part of our bodies, playing a critical role in our overall well-being. When things go wrong with our hearts, it can lead to serious medical issues as well as an altered state of mind. There are various terms and ways of describing this phenomenon, and here are a few of them.
Atrial Fibrillation (A.Fib) And Atrial Flutter (A.Flt)
If you’ve ever had an MRI or CT scan performed, then you may be familiar with the many little hearts that dance around in the MRI images. These are either technical terms for the atria (the top chambers of the heart) or for the chambers in general. In atrial fibrillation, the top chambers of the heart (the atria) beat chaotically, causing unorganized electrical impulses to race through the heart and to the lower chambers (the ventricles). In this condition, the individual’s heart rate can be as high as 150 beats per minute, causing a dramatic rise in blood pressure and putting the person at risk of stroke. In individuals with atrial fibrillation, the heart is said to be “fibrillating.” Fortunately, there are several effective treatments for the condition, and many people live normal active lifestyles despite having this issue. However, there is no way to tell what type of medical problems this condition might cause in the future. It is vital that everyone with this issue be monitored by a medical professional. In atrial flutter, the atria contract in a rapid, chaotic manner, causing very similar issues to atrial fibrillation. In this condition, the individual’s heart rate may only be a few beats per minute, depending on the individual, but it can still significantly affect their overall cardiovascular function.
These are conditions caused by a delay in the electrical activity of the heart. In general, the atria and ventricles can both be affected by a delay, resulting in irregular or slow beating. This can happen for various reasons, leading to a variety of clinical pictures. For example, in some cases, the individual’s thyroid gland may not be producing enough hormone, causing the heart rate to be slow or irregular. In other cases, anemia (low red blood cell count) may be the cause of the arrhythmia. In any case, the individual’s heart may be experiencing a period of low activity that is characterized by an increase in the duration between heartbeats (interbeat interval). This condition is known as bradycardia or “slow heart” and is typically treated with a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). While bradyarrhythmias are generally not fatal, they can still cause significant discomfort and lead to circulatory collapse in some cases. This is why it is so important to identify the underlying cause of the condition.
In some people, the electrical activity of the heart becomes completely compromised, leading to periods of time during which the heart does not beat. This can happen for various reasons, such as thyroid issues, anemia, or certain medications. When this condition occurs, the resulting heart rhythm is known as sinus arrest. In most cases, the condition is not dangerous and can simply be treated with a pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). However, in rare instances, it can lead to circulatory collapse and even death if not properly treated. This is why it is important to get to the root of the problem in these cases. While it is generally not fatal, it is still a disorder that needs to be identified and treated if it persists.
Ventricular Tachycardia (VT) And Ventricular Fibrillation (VF)
In some instances, the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart) experience an increase in the frequency of their electrical activity. In ventricular tachycardia, this increase in frequency is generally less than 100 beats per minute, though it can be significantly higher in some cases. It is a serious condition, and in many cases, individuals with this issue will have had previous episodes of ventricular tachycardia that were not properly treated. In these cases, the individual will be at risk of sudden cardiac death unless they receive appropriate treatment with a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). While the condition is not fatal in the majority of cases, it can still cause significant clinical problems and lead to premature death in some cases.
Ruptured Aortic Artery Aneurysm
This is a condition in which there is an abnormal dilation of one or more of the coronary arteries, often due to increased blood pressure. In most cases, this condition is caused by atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque on the artery wall), though it can also be caused by inherited cardiovascular diseases (e.g., Marfan’s syndrome, Loehn’s syndrome, etc.). In some cases, the aneurysm can rupture, leading to serious complications. Individuals with a history of this condition are often at risk of sudden cardiac death unless they receive appropriate medical treatment. In these cases, it is usually essential to surgically repair the condition as soon as possible.
Frequent and unplanned spikes in blood pressure may put an individual at risk of a stroke. If and when this happens, it usually indicates that the individual is suffering from either hemodynamically significant carotid artery stenosis or a patent foramen ovale (PFO). Carotid artery stenosis is an obstruction of one of the carotid arteries that supply blood to the brain. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including atherosclerosis (plaque build-up on the artery wall), fibromuscular dysplasia (a condition in which connective tissue in the wall of a blood vessel thickens and limits the blood vessel’s ability to expand), and infections such as syphilis and tuberculosis. In addition to carotid artery stenosis, people with a history of venous thrombosis (blood clotting), migraines, or strokes are often at risk of another stroke. The important thing to remember about these conditions is that they can all be treated successfully.
Your heart is an amazing organ. While we usually think of it as a steady and reliable organ that keeps pumping for our entire lifetimes, in reality, it’s a complex and vital organ that can change and grow as our needs change. It is the most vital part of our bodies and the one that keeps us alive. When things go wrong with our hearts, it can lead to very serious medical conditions as well as an altered state of mind. It is important to remember that there are many different terms and ways of describing this phenomenon, so if you think that you or a loved one may be experiencing issues with their heart, then it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible.