Electrical signals control the
beating of your heart. They tell your heart muscle when to contract, a process known as
conduction. The normal timing of heartbeats is generated in the upper chamber of the
heart (atria) in a structure called the sinus node. The signal moves from the sinus node
to the pumping chambers (ventricles) of the heart to cause a heartbeat (contraction).
When you have heart block, there is interference with the electrical signals that
usually move from the atria to the ventricles. . This is known as a conduction disorder.
If the electrical signals can’t move from your atria to your ventricles, they can’t tell
your ventricles to contract and pump blood correctly.
In most cases of heart block, the
signals slow down, but don't completely stop. Heart block is called first-, second-, or
If you are born with heart block,
it's called congenital heart block. It is caused by a condition your mother had during
her pregnancy or heart problems you were born with.
For most, heart block develops as
you get older. It happens as the wires (nerve fibers) that connect the top and bottom of
the heart develop fibrosis and eventually fail. Sometimes this may happen because of
advancing age. Any process that can damage these heart wires can result in heart block.
Coronary artery disease with and without a heart attack is one of the most common causes
of heart block. Diseases that weaken the heart muscle (cardiomyopathies) can also damage
the wire. Heart block can also be caused by any disease that can affect the heart such
as sarcoidosis and certain cancers, or any disease that results in heart inflammation.
This can be an autoimmune disease or infections. Electrolyte problems such as high
potassium levels can also result in heart block.
. You may be born with heart block
(congenital). But many cases of heart block occur because of some other condition or
event. These include:
Symptoms depend on the type of
heart block you have: First-degree heart block may have no bothersome symptoms.
Second-degree heart block might cause:
Third-degree heart block can be
fatal. It might cause:
To diagnose your condition, your healthcare provider will consider:
You treatment depends on the type of heart block you have:
Your medical team may also make changes in any medicines you're taking or treat any related underlying condition.
Complications of heart block may
include fainting with injury, low blood pressure, damage to other internal organs, and
Pregnant women who have an
autoimmune disease may be able to get certain treatment to reduce the risk for heart
block in their babies.
Prevention of heart block focuses
mainly on managing the risk factors. A healthy lifestyle helps overall good health,
including heart health. Exercise, eat a well-balanced diet, and don’t smoke.
Understanding the risks of your medicines and reviewing them with your healthcare
provider can reduce the risk for medicine-induced heart block. Talk with your healthcare
team before taking any herbal supplements or new medicines, especially if you have risk
factors for heart block.
Follow your healthcare provider’s
recommendations for taking medicine and using a pacemaker, if that applies to you. Also
always keep follow-up appointments to make sure your treatment is on track.
To improve your quality of life with a pacemaker, you may need to:
Seek medical attention right away
for these symptoms:
If you have sudden cardiac arrest,
you won't be able to seek care for yourself. It is very important to make sure the
people you see on a regular basis know what to do in an emergency. Calling 911 is the
most important first step.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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