The heart normally maintains a steady rhythm or beat. Illnesses and diseases can interrupt this rhythm. There are many different types of irregular heart beats, or arrhythmias. One type is called ventricular fibrillation. The heart’s two lower chambers are called the ventricles. The term fibrillation means fluttering. Ventricular fibrillation is the term used when one of the heart’s lower chambers does not contract and pump correctly. It occurs when your heart beat becomes rapid and erratic, reducing the amount of blood the heart pumps. Ventricular fibrillation is fatal within minutes if you do not receive immediate medical attention.
If your heart is starved for blood and oxygen you can have a heart attack. This affects the natural rhythm of the heart and can lead to low potassium levels. Potassium is needed to help all of your muscles contract properly. Due to both of these situations, ventricular fibrillation is very common after a heart attack, says St Jude Medical Center. Your risk of heart attack rises if you are overweight, smoke, eat a diet high in fat, have high blood pressure and cholesterol and are sedentary. Changing to healthier lifestyle habits is your best defense against a heart attack and ventricular fibrillation.
According to the Mayo Clinic, if you have ventricular tachycardia, the electrical impulses that are being sent to the heart are too fast and cause the heart muscle to quiver. It can last only a few seconds and cause no symptoms, or it can cause dizziness, fainting or unconsciousness. If ventricular tachycardia is not controlled, it can lead to ventricular fibrillation. If your heart goes into ventricular fibrillation, you will need immediate medical attention, CPR and a shock from a defibrillator to recover. You can die within minutes of ventricular fibrillation if there is no intervention from a bystander who knows CPR or a medical professional.
Congenital Heart Disease and Trauma
If you are born with a defect in your heart you may be at a higher risk of developing ventricular fibrillation. The National Institutes of Health state that there are many heart conditions and abnormalities that fall under the category of congenital heart disease. These irregularities in the heart muscle can cause it to go out of rhythm. Ventricular fibrillation can also be the result of an injury, trauma or blow to the heart, which causes it to go out of rhythm. However, in some cases, ventricular fibrillation can occur in those with no history of heart disease and for no identifiable cause.
About this Author
Lori Newell of Living Well Yoga and Fitness holds a master’s degree in health promotion. She is a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor. Newell has taught classes for the general public and those with chronic illness for 25 years. She has four books and writes for many sites and magazines, including the “International Journal of Yoga Therapy.”