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The heart's electrical conduction system plays a very important role in cardiovascular functioning. Also known as the atrioventricular (AV) conduction system, it regulates and controls the timing of the heartbeat.
How does the heart's electrical conduction system work?
There is a collection of electrical cells in the upper right atrium of the heart known as the sinoatrial (SA) node which acts as a natural pacemaker and generates electrical signals. These signals travel through specialized electrical pathways and stimulate the muscular walls of the heart to contract in a rhythmic manner. This gives rise to the heartbeat that pulses at a specific frequency every minute.
What is the effect of fluctuations in electrical activity on the heart?
The standard heart rate in human being ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. It slows down when a person sleeps and speeds up when one experiences physical or emotional heightening. These fluctuations are triggered by the brain or other systems of the body and signal the SA node to generate charges more rapidly or slowly. This leads to spikes and drops in the heart rate, depending on the nature of the situation.
What happens when there is dysfunction in the heart's electrical activity?
When the heart's electrical conduction system does not function properly, it leads to the occurrence of a condition known as arrhythmia or abnormal heart rhythm. This happens when electrical impulses are generated in an irregular manner and causes tachycardia (rapid heartbeats) or bradycardia (slow heartbeats) which takes place in jarring infrequent tempos.
What causes fluctuations in the heart's electrical activity?
There are various kinds of triggers that cause the heart rate to fluctuate. The exact nature of fluctuation also depends on the type of trigger. A few everyday examples of these causes are as follows:
- Exercise and strenuous physical activity increases electrical activity as the heart is required to beat faster so as to increase the supply of blood and oxygen to the muscles.
- Sleep and rest reduce heart rate as the body is not needed to exert itself.
- Release of adrenaline into the bloodstream causes the heart rate to spike up.
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