A healthy heart beats 60-100 times per minute. Normally, every muscle contraction of the heart is controlled by electrical signals that travel from the heart’s upper chambers to the lower ones. A heart blockage disrupts the flow of electrical signals of the heart.
Heart blockage is partial when the electrical impulses are stopped or delayed, preventing the heart from beating regularly. A complete blockage, on the other hand, occurs when the electrical signals come to a halt completely. In this case, the heart rate drops below 40 bpm.
Many times, a heart block makes it harder for the heart to pump blood through the circulatory system, so the organs and muscles, including your brain, do not receive an adequate supply of oxygen to function properly.
Types of heart blockage and associated symptoms
Depending on the type of heart blockage, a person may encounter the following signs –
First-degree blockage – This is the least fatal type of heart blockage. Symptoms include minor disruptions in heartbeat or skipped beats.
Second-degree blockage – This occurs when some of the electrical signals do not reach the heart. Signs may include skipped or dropped beats, and dizziness.
Third-degree blockage – This is the most serious of all heart blockage conditions. This happens when the electrical signals do not travel between the lower and upper chambers of your heart. Most patients require a pacemaker for this condition. Without it, you may be at risk of a heart attack.
You should also watch out for these signs –
Heart palpitations – irregular or slow heartbeat
Shortness of breath
Discomfort or pain in the chest
Fainting and lightheadedness
Trouble exercising due to lack of blood being pumped through the body
Often, people with a blocked heart appear healthy from the outside, but they might be suffering from an underlying heart ailment.
Certain conditions, such as those mentioned below may put you at greater risk of a heart blockage –
Inflammation of the heart muscle – myocarditis
Inflammation of the heart valves – endocarditis
Scarring of the heart tissue
Family history of heart disorders
If you experience the above symptoms or have any of the above-mentioned conditions, you should visit a specialist and get yourself diagnosed immediately. Proper diagnosis at the earliest may help you receive appropriate treatment right away.
Inherited cardiac conditions refer to those cardiac conditions that you inherit from your parents. These are also referred to as inherited heart conditions or genetic heart disorders. Inherited cardiac conditions are often life-threatening and can affect anyone at any age.
Genetics play a vital role in influencing the risk of cardiac diseases in more than one way. From the robustness of the blood vessels to the way the cells in your heart communicate – the genes control every aspect of the cardiovascular system. A genetic mutation influences your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases. For instance, a genetic mutation can alter the way certain proteins function so that your body is able to process cholesterol differently, putting you at risk of blocked arteries. Parents pass on genetic mutations to their children through the DNA of sperm and ova. The genetic code of the parent is reproduced into each cell of the child during his/her developing years.
Types of inherited cardiac conditions
Some common inherited cardiac conditions include the following –
Atrial fibrillation – This is a common form of arrhythmia where your chances of getting a stroke increases
Brugada syndrome – This refers to a genetic disease of your heart rhythm, which may lead to ventricular fibrillation, followed by instant cardiac arrest
Catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia – A calcium channel disorder in the muscles of the heart, which results in irregular heartbeats and causes problems with the heart’s electrical signalling
Long QT syndrome – An extended QT interval (electrical recovery phase) of your heartbeat, which results in chaotic, rapid beats
Short QT syndrome – A shortened electrical recovery phase that can result in a fatal arrhythmia
If any of your family members have had a history of heart disorders, or have been recently diagnosed with one, you should also undergo screening for risk factors.
Can inherited cardiac conditions be treated?
Treatment for inherited heart conditions like arrhythmia and cardiomyopathy may not be able to reverse the ailments but are often effective in managing symptoms, specifically if used in conjunction with lifestyle changes.
Many of the inherited cardiac conditions can be managed with medications alone, or with the help of a pacemaker or ICD.
Talk to your doctor and discuss with him/her your family’s medical history. He/she will guide you with the correct treatment approach.