Why are heart flutters on the rise

|

UPDATED:

21:00 GMT, 5 May 2012

Claire Squires, 30, died just before the finish at this year's London Marathon

Claire Squires, 30, died just before the finish at this year's London Marathon

The death of Claire Squires just before the finish at this year’s London Marathon rightly struck a chord.

The 30-year-old from North Kilworth, Leicestershire, was said to have been suffering from arrhythmia – an irregular heartbeat – which can be caused by a number of different diseases.

Millions of Britons suffer and, while serious, it is treatable.

What causes the heart to flutter

The
rhythm of the heart is controlled by the electrical beat of the nerves,
and if these short-circuit the heart will beat too fast or too slowly.
This can cause chest pain and dizziness. Arrhythmia can also be caused
by infections, medications, heart disease, alcohol and illegal drugs.
Herbal and cold remedies and diet pills have also been linked.

Which types of arrhythmia do young people suffer with

The
commonest type of arrhythmia in young people is SVT – supraventricular
tachycardia – when the heart beats too fast in bursts that can last
hours or even days. The cause is usually unknown. Youngsters can also
suffer arrhythmias where the heart goes too slowly. Some will get
episodes where they feel their heart skips a beat or there is a
fluttering/pounding in the chest. The heart is having an extra or early
beat and we all feel these from time to time.

How would I know if I have arrhythmia

Certain symptoms would warrant investigation, such as fainting, dizziness, palpitations or chest pain, and the abnormal rhythm would be seen on an ECG.

Are these conditions on the rise

We seem to be seeing more, but there is greater awareness and our methods of detection are improving. Widespread use of illicit drugs and alcohol among youngsters would lead to more arrhythmias.

Tiny defibrillators are sometimes implanted into the body to 'shock' the heart out of abnormal rhythms if it is going dangerously fast

Tiny defibrillators are sometimes implanted into the body to 'shock' the heart out of abnormal rhythms if it is going dangerously fast

What’s the treatment

Medications to slow the heart rate, such as the beta blocker sotalol, are used to control the common type of SVT. In other types, surgical procedures may lead to a permanent cure. For those with an arrhythmia where the heart is too slow, a pacemaker can be inserted to speed it up. Tiny defibrillators are sometimes implanted into the body to ‘shock’ the heart out of abnormal rhythms if it is going dangerously fast.

Should people with arrhythmias exercise

Appropriate ways should be discussed with a doctor. For sports such as marathon running, it is not only the exercise that triggers the arrhythmia but the stress and adrenaline of competition.

www.twitter.com/Dr_Ellie