Most people have claimed to have suffered from a broken heart at some point in their lives. Emotional trauma, lost loves, and daily stresses have caused an emotional “break” in our cardiovascular system. While a long lost relationship can cause some mental heartbreak, there are every day stresses than can do some physical damage to our life source. People who suffer from stress, high blood pressure, and poor health all put their hard working muscle at risk.
The biggest life-saver for a poor heart is due to a little medical machine called a Pacemaker. The heart sends electrical currents throughout its four chambers, to help pump oxygenated and deoxygenated blood throughout the body. When those electrical currents stop working properly, this device is implanted into the arteries of the heart, and sends timed electrical stimulations to each chamber. When someone gets to the point of desperation to save their heart, this is when a pacemaker is needed.
Pacemakers are most commonly used to speed upthe heart rate. If a person’s natural heart rate (known as the sinus rhythm) is too slow, then a pacemaker is used to increase the heart rate via its electrical stimulus. The two biggest factors in a slow heart rate are Bradycardia and heart block. Bradycardia is a malfunctioning heart that is slower than normal, and heart block is a disorder that occurs as an electrical signal is disrupted or slows down while moving through the heart.
If you are aging, are having symptoms of feeling faint or black outs, have had heart surgeries or heart attacks, or are on heart medication then you may be tested to see if you suffer from a slow heartbeat, or need a pacemaker implant. These tests vary from EKG tests (Electrocardiogram); a painless test through means of sound waves, Holter Monitors used to record the hearts activity for 24-48 hours, stress tests, or even cardiovascular ultrasound.
While a slow heartbeat calls for a pacemaker, there is also an opposing condition in which the heartbeat is too fast. There are a few conditions that can cause this, and different ways to go about treatment. The general term for this condition is Arrhythmia. There are many different types of rapid heartbeat arrhythmias such as: Atrial Fibrillation; caused by rapid quivering of the upper atria. Sinus Tachycardia: a regular heartbeat that is rapid, with over 100 beats per minute. Supraventricular tachycardia: extremely rapid heartbeats that can cause blood to improperly flow throughout the chambers of the heart and compromise blood flow to the body. This condition comes and goes over time and can last several minutes or several hours. Ventricular tachycardia; originates in the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles), causes the heart to contract before its filled with enough blood, can lead to the loss of consciousness due to lack of blood flow to the brain and other parts of the body. This form of Tachycardia can be life threatening and often causes people to need CPR.
While the causes of a slow heartbeat are due to malfunctions in the heart, the causes of a fast heartbeat are increased via outside sources. Excess caffeine intake, smoking, drinking, copious amounts of stress, side effects from medication, dehydration, and drugs are all just a few factors. Because of this, many different treatment options are available for people suffering from this disorder.
Tests may be administered to see if the issues can first be corrected by making lifestyle changes. The most common treatment after testing is medication. Injections of anti-arrhythmic medications are given to patients at hospitals in an attempt to restore normalcy to the rapid heart rate. Pill versions of this medication can be taken home for the patients use.
Another very common medication to stop a rapid heartbeat is a Beta Blocker (I.E. Metoprolol and Esmolol). Beta Blockers are drugs that block adrenaline from binding to beta receptors on nerves. Each person has three different types of beta receptors in their body, and they control different functions based on their location. Beta 1 (B1) receptors are located in the heart, kidneys, and eyes. Beta 2 (B2) receptors are located in the lungs, uterus, gastrointestinal tract, blood vessels, liver, and skeletal muscles. Beta 3 (B3) receptors are located in fat cells.
Beta blocking medications are used primarily to block Beta 1 and 2 receptors. By blocking the adrenalines in these areas of the body, they help reduce heart rate and blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels, and constrict air passages by stimulating the muscles that surround them to contract.
While Beta Blockers are successful in reducing heart rates, the irony in them is that they can cause your heart rate to become too slow and can cause heart failure or heart block. This leads us back to the need for a pacemaker. There have been reports of patients weaning themselves off of their beta blockers, and their heart rate still being too slow. The body adjusts to the way the medication alters it, and keeps the heart pace at a low level.
Bottom Line of Heart Health
Many issues of the heart can be predisposed or genetic, or even freak accidents that happen without warning. However there are many ways people can avoid “heart break” and the need to become partially bionic. Be mindful of the medication you take, and how much of it you take. If there is an ulterior, natural method of treatment for something, try opting for that before popping a pill. Be sure to eat healthy and always give your body the exercise that it needs. Steer clear of alcohol, drugs, and smoking; these three culprits age and weaken your heart dramatically. Caffeine is a stimulant for your heart and can lead to permanent damage so lower or completely rid of yourself of caffeine intake.
Thanks to the wonders of medical micromachining, pacemakers are constantly evolving in order to save human lives. They are created with top notch engineering, testing, and monitoring. A wireless pacemaker prototype is currently being tested, and new ways to improve these devices are being practiced.
By Clarissa Ramsey, an RN working in assisted living, helping the elderly with their heart conditions.