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Human hearts beat, on average, between sixty and one hundred beats per minute. Blood must be pumped around your body to deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. Your body’s requirements for these will vary from second to second, particularly during and after physical activity. So your heart needs to be able to respond to changing needs by beating faster or more slowly. An area of muscle and nerve tissue called the sinoatrial node in the wall of your heart has the job of generating electrical impulses to co-ordinate heart contractions, acting as your heart’s natural pacemaker.
You may feel your heart racing after drinking coffee or taking some types of medication. This is quite normal, and your pulse should settle back into a routine over time. A heart rhythm consistently deviating from a normal pattern is caused by changes to your heart’s electrical impulses.
Your heart may beat too quickly, too slowly or erratically. Tachycardia occurs when your heart rate is consistently above a hundred beats per minute. If your heart beats at less than sixty beats per minute this is known as bradycardia.
Atrial fibrillation occurs when the top chambers of your heart quiver or twitch, with the heart beating faster than normal, and it often beats irregularly without a constant pattern. It’s usually felt as palpitations or skipped heartbeats. Atrial fibrillation may come and go or may happen constantly.
Finally, a condition known as supraventricular tachycardia causes episodes when your heart beats too rapidly when you’re at rest.
Irregularities in heart rate can be connected with heart failure, stroke and cardiac arrest, so it’s important to have any arrhythmia checked out by a medical professional. Issues with heart rate are by no means rare, affecting more than two million people in the UK.
Although sometimes there are no overt symptoms from arrhythmia, you may experience palpitations, breathlessness, dizzy spells or fainting.
Atrial fibrillation is more common in people who are overweight, and heavy alcohol users. It’s connected with caffeine and nicotine, stress, hypertension, imbalances of electrolytes in the blood and an over-active thyroid gland. You may also develop arrhythmia if your heart tissue has been damaged, for example by a virus such as COVID-19.
Some people are born with a defect in the electrical system of the heart.
Arrhythmia can be diagnosed with an electrocardiogram (ECG), a device to record the electrical activity of your heart. Arrhythmia is generally treated by medicines including anti-arrhythmic drugs, beta-blockers and anticoagulants, or by wearing a pacemaker, a tiny device communicating with your heart to ensure it beats at a steady rate.
Magnesium works alongside calcium to regulate the activity of all the muscles and nerves in your body. Your heart is one big muscle, and magnesium is essential to maintain normal heart rhythm as well as to regulate the electrical impulses stimulating your heart muscle to contract. Magnesium deficiency is incredibly widespread in the UK. It’s found in green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes.
This powerful antioxidant literally provides the energy to allow your heart to do its job. When you consider that your heart beats over 40 million times per year, a huge amount of energy is needed. Your heart can’t survive and function without co-Enzyme Q10. Your body manufactures its own co-enzyme Q10, but it becomes much less efficient at doing this as you age, and the nutrient is also depleted by some medicines, especially statins. It’s found in some foods like salmon, chicken and spinach, but a supplement may be needed if your heart needs a little extra support.
Constituents of protein foods, several amino acids play a role in regulating your heartbeat. Carnitine can help prevent your heart from beating out of time, while taurine is an amino acid found in high concentrations in the heart and directly involved in heart rhythm control. One study showed taurine supplementation reduced premature contractions of the heart by an impressive 50%. Adding in a further amino acid, arginine, completely eliminated arrhythmia in these patients.
Your therapist will examine your symptoms and health history in detail, and alongside functional tests where necessary, will recommend heart-supporting nutrients specific to your needs, backing these up with heart-healthy lifestyle suggestions.
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