The Way Heart Works-By Dr. Harold Gunatillake
Keep your heart rate between 60 to 80 beats per minute
If you use an average of 80 beats per minute, your heart beats about 4,800 times per hour. That’s a whopping 115,200 times per day. Over the course of a year, your heart would beat about 42,048,000 times!
Let’s listen to a healthy steady heartbeat.
That is the way you must keep your heart beating through life. Take care of your heart and your heart will give you a healthy good lifespan.
Athletes and others who do strenuous exercises, may bring down their heart rate according to the extent of training. Olympic athletes bring down their heart rate to 40 beats per minute, for competitive performance
If you are sedentary, your heart rate may go up to 90 per minute, or more
If your heart rate is more than 90 beats per minute you need to see your doctor to check the reason. In such a situation if you neglect your heart may go into failure without your knowing or may have a stroke or sudden arrest and death.
To be on the safe side, please check your pulse at your wrist, or side of neck, regularly at rest. During exercise it raises physiologically.
When the heart rate is rapid, we call it ‘tachycardia’ Sinus tachycardia is when the heart rate increases due to physical activities. In such situations, the increased rate does not harm your heart
Your heart rate may be regular or irregular. It may be irregular due to a dropped beat. Please see your doctor early.
Your heart rate gets rapid if you are malnourished and anaemic. This is the commonest cause of tachycardia among many rural people in Sri Lanka. They need a nourishing diet to make the heart work healthily.
Frequent coffee drinkers have a rapid heart rate. If you eat chocolate bars daily, your heart becomes rapid due to the stimulation by the caffeine in the chocolate,There is a term called inappropriate sinus tachycardia. About half of the time, this phenomenon occurs after recovery from a serious illness, usually a viral illness. And most often, those affected are women in their 20s and 30s.
Inappropriate sinus tachycardia does not damage your heart.
The commonest cause of rapid heart rate is Atrial fibrillation. The term atrial or atrium is used for the upper two chambers of the heart and the term ventricle is used to the lower two chambers.
When you go for your blood pressure check- up, in addition to upper and lower readings, the pulse rate is as important in the management of high blood pressure So, remember to know your pulse rate i.e. your heart rate, when you next visit you doctor.
Atrial fibrillation may be due to irregular electrical impulses in the two upper chambers or atria.
This raised irregular heart rate may be due to some heart disease, high blood pressure, heart valve disorder, increased thyroxine hormone liberated from your thyroid glands in your neck, we call it hyperthyroid state.
If you have an over-active thyroid there are other symptoms like, loss of weight even when eating lot of food, thin and moist skin, bulging eyes, loose motions, tremors in your fingers and so on.
Heavy alcohol abuse is another cause of rapid heart rate. Now let’s talk about irregular heartbeats- doctors call it Arrythmia.
You may feel that you are skipping a beat, or having added a beat When there are added beats, we call it “flutter”
When the beat is irregular the rhythm may be fast or slow or too early. Many arrythmias are harmless and many people live with it.
It could be harmful too-then it is serious-may be due to damaged heart and you must see your doctor immediately.
With irregular heartbeat if you feel dizzy, breathless or feel rapid heartbeats we call
palpitations – then it is serious. The causes of irregular heat-beats are:
• alcohol abuse
• drug abuse
• excessive coffee consumption
• heart disease like congestive heart failure
• hypertension (high blood pressure)
• hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland)
• mental stress
• scarring of the heart, often the result of a heart attack
• some dietary supplements
• some herbal treatments
• some medications7
If you feel a burst of fast irregular heartbeats lasting for a few minutes to a few
hours and back to normal – this condition is called Supraventricular tachycardia. For this condition there are medications like beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers. Many people with this condition have a procedure called catheter ablation. The other irregular heartbeats are:
Atrial flutter,AV nodal re-entrant tachycardia
Ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillations, and so on. The bottom line is – you need to check your heartbeat i.e. your pulse rate in your neck or wrist occasionally. You may even experience palpitations, dizziness, fainting attacks.
You need to see your doctor immediately and take remedial measures before your heart goes into failure.
The bottom line is- If you feel that your pulse rate in your wrist or the neck is rapid, very slow, or irregular, you must see your doctor as soon as possible.Hope this talk was useful. Until we meet again, Goodbye.