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Did you know heart palpitations can tell the story of your heart? Sometimes these flutters can be a sign of changes to your heart health

(BPT) - Read on to learn the power of heart rhythms to tell your heart health story …

Heart rhythms can tell a story with the power to help change a life.

You may have heard of heart palpitations because they are common[1], accounting for 16% of visits to primary care physicians and are the second leading cause of visits to cardiologists[2]. Often perceived as mere inconveniences, heart palpitations can be important cues from our bodies. While they are sometimes caused by temporary stressors, they may also signify deeper health concerns like arrhythmias that require medical attention.

An arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat where your heart may beat too quickly, too slowly or irregularly. One study shows that up to 5% of the general population - or 16 million people[3] - experience arrhythmias. Some arrhythmias, if not treated, can damage the heart, brain or other organs.[4] Other arrhythmias may even lead to an increased risk of stroke or death.[5] And for the person experiencing one, arrhythmias can feel scary.

Causes and Risk Factors

How can you do better by your heart? First and foremost, you can reduce risk factors for arrhythmias. Risk factors that may affect an individual's risk of arrhythmia include heart disease, high blood pressure, high alcohol use, obesity and family history.[6] Arrhythmias and related conditions are more common in those over 60 years of age,[7] and can be particularly dangerous if undetected.

And, for early detection, it is worthwhile talking with your healthcare provider as there are advancements in heart monitoring technologies that offer lightweight, wearable electrocardiogram (ECG) patches that seamlessly integrate into your daily life and record important heart rhythms and help tell your individualized story of cardiac health.

Types of Arrhythmias

In general, heart arrhythmias are grouped by the speed of the heart rate. For example, tachycardia is a fast heartbeat, while bradycardia is a slow heartbeat[8].

Atrial fibrillation, or Afib, is a common arrhythmia, with an irregular and often very rapid heart rhythm (tachycardia). There are 5-8 million people with Afib in the U.S., with up to 1.5 million adults living with Afib who don't even know they have it.[9] In fact, Afib causes one out of seven strokes[10], and 160,000 deaths per year.[11]

Early Detection is Vital

Being proactive about your heart health is critical. And that includes early detection and treatment of arrhythmias to reduce the burden of cardiac disease.[12]

While arrhythmias are treatable, your path may depend on the specific type of arrhythmia. Evaluating your unique treatment journey requires a diagnosis from a doctor.

A Path Forward

The path to getting a diagnosis and understanding your specific arrhythmia hasn't always been easy. Not so long ago, finding out if you had an arrhythmia required a hospital or clinic visit to get an ECG. But as arrhythmia symptoms often come and go, and an ECG can capture the exact time your heartbeat is irregular. An in-clinic ECG scan sometimes meant that getting a diagnosis required repeat ECGs or the condition was missed altogether.

Today, while doctors still widely use Holter monitors to detect arrhythmias - wired, clunky devices introduced in the 1960s that are worn for only 24 to 48 hours - clinical studies have shown that longer ECG recording periods are more effective[13] because some people could go days or weeks without an episode. In fact, three out of four patients who use a Holter monitor do not get a diagnosis on the first test.[14]

Nowadays, even a smartwatch can tell you that you might have atrial fibrillation, by tracking your pulse to see if it becomes irregular, though the accuracy is not always perfect. If you have any symptoms or get a smartwatch alert, take heed - but know that you will likely still need an ECG to get a diagnosis from your doctor.

The good news is that modern ECG monitors can be worn at home and continuously record your heart's electrical signal for longer than 24 to 48 hours if your doctor prescribes it. iRhythm has been creating these types of ECG monitors since 2008 and has recently launched its next generation monitoring device, the Zio monitor. The device is a discreet adhesive patch and a sensor the size of a quarter, weighing less than a pencil[15], with no clunky wires and no need to change batteries during the wear period.

Recordings from these Zio ECG monitoring devices continuously record your heart for up to 14 days - capturing up to 1.5 million heart beats[16] - and can help doctors accurately diagnose heart arrhythmias.

'Palpitations, skipped beats, and other heart-rhythm symptoms can be a nuisance and affect quality of life. However, sometimes they tell a greater story and may signal a more serious condition like atrial fibrillation, which can cause stroke and heart failure,' said Mintu Turakhia, MD, MAS, a cardiologist and the chief medical and scientific officer at iRhythm. 'Because these rhythms can be treated and complications prevented, early detection is key. The good news is there are heart monitoring technologies that can help get to a diagnosis quickly - or give you peace of mind.'

In a world where our health is paramount, understanding and responding to our heart's rhythms is a powerful step toward longevity and well-being. So, listen to your heart, embrace the technological strides in cardiac monitoring, and take proactive steps towards heart health. Your heart's story is worth knowing, and with the right tools and care, you can help ensure it's a long and healthy one.

Newer heart monitoring technology is helping in the shift to more preventative and proactive treatment and care, providing an effective way to diagnose arrhythmias and protect your health. If you or your loved one has symptoms of arrhythmias, talk to your physician or care team to learn more if heart monitoring is right for you and the best option for your situation.

[1] Raviele A, Giada F, Bergfeldt L, et al. Management of patients with palpitations: a position paper from the European Heart Rhythm Association. Europace. 2011;13(7):920-934.

[2] Wexler, et al. Palpitations: Evaluation in the Primary Care Setting. Am Fam Physician, 2017.

[3] Desai et al. Arrhythmias. StatPearls [Internet], 2022. [accessed October 2022]

[4] What is an arrhythmia? National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, 2022. Accessed November 18, 2022

[5] Ataklte et al. Meta-analysis of ventricular premature complexes and their relation to cardiac mortality in general populations. The American Journal of Cardiology, 2013.

Lin et al. Long-Term Outcome of Non-Sustained Ventricular Tachycardia in Structurally Normal Hearts. PLOS ONE, 2016.

Wolf et al. Atrial fibrillation as an independent risk factor for stroke: the Framingham Study. Stroke, 1991.

[6] Arrhythmias: causes and triggers. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), 2022

[7] Mirza, M. et al,. Mechanisms of arrhythmias and conduction disorders in older adults. Clin Geriatr Med., 2012


[9] Turakhia MP, et al., Contemporary prevalence estimates of undiagnosed and diagnosed atrial fibrillation in the United States. Clin Cardiol, 2023.

[10] Heart Rhythm Society. (2019). Complications from Atrial Fibrillation.

[11] Atrial Fibrillation. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2022. [accessed September 2023]

[12] Rilig et al. Early Rhythm Control in Patients With Atrial Fibrillation and High Comorbidity Burden. Circulation, 2022.

[13] Reynolds et al. Comparative effectiveness of ambulatory monitors for arrhythmia diagnosis: A retrospective analysis of Medicare beneficiaries managed with ambulatory cardiac monitors between 2017 and 2019. Accepted for ACC.23 presentation, presented at New Orleans, LA.

[14] Tsang, et al., Benefits of monitoring patients with mobile cardiac telemetry (MCT) compared with the Event or Holter monitors. Medical Devices: Evidence and Research, 2013.

[15] 10g

[16] Data on file. iRhythm Technologies, 2019.

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