Operating under the control of a complex internal electrical system, the heart beats out a continual rhythm from a few weeks after conception until death. This rhythm is ordinarily even and regular, changing speed as necessary to adjust to the body’s need for oxygen.
Sometimes, however, the heart’s rhythm becomes disturbed (“arrhythmic”). The most common and benign form of arrhythmia is the common “heart palpitation,” known technically as sinus arrhythmia. Generally, these are felt as a short run of thumps or flutters in the chest. Sinus arrhythmia is often caused by stress and anxiety. It poses no danger, although it can be annoying.
More serious forms of heart arrhythmia may occur as well. In later life, many people develop atrial fibrillation, a condition in which part of the heart contracts at excessive speed and another part follows along irregularly. Although some people live for years in a state of atrial fibrillation, this is a potentially dangerous condition that requires medical attention.
Other forms of heart arrhythmia are more dangerous still, including ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation. These frequently occur after a heart attack. They are often heralded by ventricular premature complexes.
Conventional treatment for arrhythmia depends on the type involved. Sinus arrhythmias are often left untreated. More serious rhythm disturbances are addressed through the use of medications, defibrillation, or a pacemaker.
Note : Heart arrhythmias are far too dangerous for self-treatment. In all but the most obviously benign cases, medical supervision is mandatory.
Proposed Natural Treatments for Cardiac Arrhythmia
Although the evidence is conflicting on whether fish oil
Diuretic drugs in the
However, the drug
A controlled study found preliminary evidence that vitamin C may help prevent one of the types of arrhythmia (atrial fibrillation) that can follow coronary artery bypass grafting.
Herbs and Supplements to Avoid
Caffeine stimulates the heart and may cause minor palpitations. Herbs containing caffeine, such as guarana
Numerous herbs and supplements may interact adversely with drugs used to prevent or treat arrhythmias. For more information on this potential risk, see the individual drug articles in the
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3. Frick M, Darpo B, Ostergren J, et al. The effect of oral magnesium, alone or as an adjuvant to sotalol, after cardioversion in patients with persistent atrial fibrillation. Eur Heart J. 2000;21:1177-1185.
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11. Al Makdessi S, Sweidan H, Dietz K, et al. Protective effect of Crataegus oxyacantha against reperfusion arrhythmias after global no-flow ischemia in the rat heart. Basic Res Cardiol. 1999;94:71-77.
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14. Lumme JA, Jounela AJ. The effect of potassium and potassium plus magnesium supplementation on ventricular extrasystoles in mild hypertensives treated with hydrochlorothiazide. Int J Cardiol . 1989;25:93-98.
15. Calo L, Bianconi L, Colivicchi F, et al. N-3 Fatty acids for the prevention of atrial fibrillation after coronary artery bypass surgery: a randomized, controlled trial. J Am Coll Cardiol . 2005;45:1723-1728.
17. Raitt MH, Connor WE, Morris C, et al. Fish oil supplementation and risk of ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation in patients with implantable defibrillators: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2005;293:2884-2891.
19. Eslami M, Badkoubeh RS, Mousavi M, et al. Oral ascorbic acid in combination with beta-blockers is more effective than beta-blockers alone in the prevention of atrial fibrillation after coronary artery bypass grafting. Tex Heart Inst J. 2007;34:268-274.
21. Ozaydin M, Peker O, Erdogan D, et al. N-acetylcysteine for the prevention of postoperative atrial fibrillation: a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study. Eur Heart J. 2008 Feb 8 [Epub ahead of print].
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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