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Irregular Heartbeat

Irregular Heartbeat Symptoms and Causes

An irregular heartbeat is an arrhythmia (also called dysrhythmia). Heart rates can also be irregular. A normal heart rate is 50 to 100 beats per minute. Irregular heartbeats and abnormal heart rates don't necessarily occur together. Irregular heartbeats can occur with a normal heart rate, or with heart rates that are slow (called bradyarrhythmias -- less than 50 beats per minute). Irregular heartbeats can also occur with rapid heart rates (called tachyarrhythmias -- faster than 100 beats per minute). In the United States, more than 850,000 people are hospitalized for an arrhythmia each year.

Irregular heartbeats may be caused by many different factors, including:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Electrolyte imbalances in your blood (such as sodium or potassium)
  • Changes in your heart muscle
  • Injury from a heart attack
  • Healing process after heart surgery
  • Irregular heart rhythms can also occur in "normal, healthy" hearts

When symptoms of an irregular heartbeat occur, they may include:

  • Palpitations (a feeling of skipped heart beats, fluttering or "flip-flops," or feeling that your heart is "running away")
  • Pounding in your chest
  • Dizziness or feeling light-headed
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort
  • Weakness or fatigue (feeling very tired)