Abnormal Heart Rhythms
How Does the Normal Heart Beat?
The heartbeat is triggered by electrical impulses that travel down a special pathway through your heart muscle.
- The sinoatrial (SA) node , also called the heart’s natural pacemaker, is a cluster of specialized cells located in your right atrium (upper chamber). The SA node sets the rate and rhythm of your heartbeat. Normal heart rhythm is often called normal sinus rhythm because the SA (sinus) node fires regularly.
- The SA node fires an impulse that spreads through the walls of the right and left atria, causing them to contract. This forces blood into the ventricles.
- The impulse travels to the AV (atrioventricular) node , another center of special cells. Here, the impulse slows for a moment before going on to the ventricles.
- The impulse travels through a pathway of fibers called the HIS-Purkinje network . This network sends the impulse into the ventricles and causes them to contract. This forces blood out of the heart to the lungs and body.
- The SA node fires another impulse and the cycle begins again.
How Fast Does the Normal Heart Beat?
Your heart rate depends on the body’s need for oxygen-rich blood. At rest, the SA node causes your heart to beat about 50 to 100 times each minute. During activity or excitement, when your body needs more oxygen-rich blood; the heart rate rises to well over 100 beats per minute. Medications and some medical conditions may affect your heart rate, both at rest and with exercise.
How Do You Know How Fast Your Heart is Beating?
Your heart rate is the amount of times your heart beats in one minute. You can measure your heart rate by feeling your pulse.
- You will need a watch with a second hand.
- Place your index and middle finger on the inner wrist of the other arm, just below the base of the thumb.
- You should feel a tapping or pulsing against your fingers.
- Count the number of taps you feel in 10 seconds.
- Multiply that number by 6 to find out your heart rate for one minute:
- Pulse in 10 seconds x 6 = ____ beats per minute (your heart rate)
- Feeling your pulse will also tell if you have a regular or irregular heart rhythm..
What is an Arrhythmia?
An arrhythmia or irregular heart rhythm is an irregular or abnormal heartbeat. It can involve a change in the rhythm, producing an uneven heartbeat, or a change in the rate, causing a very slow or very fast heartbeat.
Visit the American Heart Association's Web site for more information about arrhythmias.
To find an Electrophysiologist at MetroHealth Heart & Vascular Center click here or call 216-778-2249