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An irregular heart rate, also known as an arrhythmia, can be caused by electrolyte imbalance, injury from a heart attack, or could even be a sign of coronary heart disease. With an irregular heart rate, the heart sometimes beats more slowly or more quickly than normal. Lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or other stimulants like caffeine, are usually suggested to help reverse this condition. Anti-arrhythmic drugs and anticoagulants are usually prescribed as medical interventions which may help bring the heart rate back into a normal range.
A normal heart rate is a sign that the cardiac muscle is functioning properly, and oxygen and nutrients are being transported throughout the body. An irregular heart rate, however, disrupts blood flow slightly by producing sporadic increases and decreases in the speed of the contraction and relaxation of the muscle. In many cases, particularly for athletes or individuals who exercise regularly without the proper intake of water or other nutrients, arrhythmia is related to an electrolyte imbalance. The appropriate replacement of electrolytes during exercise can relieve this problem.
Those who recently suffered a heart attack or stroke may have an irregular heart rate. With treatment for these conditions, this irregularity should decrease gradually over time. When it continues, however, medical treatments may be necessary to bring the heart rate back into a normal range.
If an individual does not have a history of heart disease or suffer from problems with electrolyte imbalance, then an irregular heart rate might be a sign of future heart trouble. Coronary artery disease is a common cause of heart palpitations, or the skipping of a heart beat, and arrhythmia. An irregular heart rate in an otherwise apparently normal individual should be checked out by a physician so that potential problems can be caught early.
Lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet and exercise program, can help improve heart health and the strength and rhythm of contraction and relaxation. Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine can also help ease symptoms of an irregular heart rate. Anti-arrhythmia and anticoagulant medications can help bring back heart rate to normal, healthy ranges for most individuals. A pacemaker is sometimes used in some cases when other methods fail; these devices send electrical impulses to the heart to help it beat at a normal rate.