I bought a blood pressure monitor (A&D UA-851) which has the option to measure irregular heartbeat. I do understand what 'irregular' means, but why do irregular heartbeats happen and what are it's implications short and long term?

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    $\begingroup$ I wouldn't put too much trust in the option to measure irregular heartbeats. Its specificity shouldn't be too high, especially when you consider that some more advanced digital monitors used in hospitals give a lot of false positives. $\endgroup$ – Tivie Jun 25 '14 at 11:06
  • $\begingroup$ I understand the OP wants to understand how his blood pressure monitor works. Some of you are thinking that it works by just interpreting cardiac rhythm. This is false! It is done by interpreting the frequency space of regular/irregular heartbeats. Please, note the difference between irregular cardiac rhythm and irregular heartbeat. $\endgroup$ – Léo Léopold Hertz 준영 Jan 8 '15 at 17:28
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    $\begingroup$ Masi - I understand something completely different from the question. He is not asking how his blood pressure monitor works, he is asking in layman's terms why an irregular heartbeat happens. I haven't voted your post down, but I think if you answered the question and were less confrontational and aggressive in comments you may get more upvotes. $\endgroup$ – Rory Alsop Jan 9 '15 at 12:07
  • $\begingroup$ I think you should re-think the accepted answer for one of the other answers. $\endgroup$ – dustin Jan 11 '15 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ @dustin are you telling me what to do? I understand Masi's answer and see that he's passionate about answering it right. $\endgroup$ – Matas Vaitkevicius Jan 12 '15 at 7:54

The normal cardiac cycle is comprised of two distinct phases: the systolic phase in which the heart contracts, ejecting the blood, followed by the the diastolic phase when the cardiac muscle relaxes, refilling the heart with blood.

This cycle is assured by specialised cardiomyocytes (Cardiac muscle cells) that conduct electrical impulses through the heart. When there's interference in this electric activity, the cycle becomes irregular or arrhythmic.

Arrhythmias can be divided by their place of origin:

  • Atrial (atria are the upper chambers of the heart)
  • Ventricular (ventricles are lower chambers of the heart)
  • Junctional (the junction between the two)
  • Heart blocks (caused by a blockade in the conductivity of the electrical specialised cardiomyocytes)

Some arrhythmias are physiological, such as the Respiratory sinus arrhythmia, a naturally occurring variation in heart rate that occurs during a breathing cycle. Also, in healthy individuals, some extra sistoles might occur without being the translation of a subjacent heart condition and have benign prognosis in individuals without other conditions.

However, some arrhythmias can have a wide range of health implications, from asymptomatic, to a mild intolerance to exercise, to Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA or stroke) or even sudden death due to cardiac arrest.

Therapeutic varies with the underlying cause but can be medical (with drugs such as Na+, K+ and Ca+ channel blockers, beta-blockers and Digoxin) or surgical (ie: Artificial pacemaker).

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    $\begingroup$ Great answer but it would be fantastic if you added some references. $\endgroup$ – Behzad Rowshanravan Jun 25 '14 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ -1 This answer is about the origin of the cardiac rhythm with major simplifications in the cardiac cycle. Irregular heart beat is not the same thing as arrythmias, also dangerous overloading of tachycardia with arrythmia. Focus on the explicit classification of heartbeat based on origin, not how those machines work. $\endgroup$ – Léo Léopold Hertz 준영 Jan 8 '15 at 18:54
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    $\begingroup$ I think it's a very good answer - although references would be ideal all the content is factual as far as I can see. $\endgroup$ – Rory M Jan 8 '15 at 20:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Masi well, this is a Biology Q&A site so answers should really focus on the biological aspects of the question. The original question "why do irregular heartbeats happen and what are it's implications short and long term" is succinctly answered in the above without over complication. $\endgroup$ – Rory M Jan 9 '15 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Masi What on earth does "dangerous overloading of tachycardia" mean? (I don't even mention tachycardia anywhere!) $\endgroup$ – Tivie Jan 10 '15 at 17:10

Very simply putting, irregular heat beat means that the pulse is not regular. It can be diagnosed by checking your pulse clinically.

Irregularities are further classified as:

  1. Regularly Irregular: this occurs in heart blocks where every second or third beat is skipped regularly causing a pattern. Usually as time progresses the degree of block worsens and result in the final form which is complete block (fourth degree heart block)

  2. Irregularly Irregular: this occurs in arrhythmia where there is total dissociation between atria and ventricles and the ventricles beat very irregularly with no pattern. The ventricles don't follow intrinsic rhythm because every SA nodal impulse that occurs at the end of latency of AV node will get conducted. Thus the heart rate is very high without any pattern. (Here heart rate means ventricular rate)

  • $\begingroup$ -1 because it is not correct answer to the functioning of the blood pressure monitoring. This answer emphasizes the melodies that are events in time interval of the heartbeat. There are also irregularities in the amplitudes of the heartbeat. There can be many amplitudes or energy levels in one heartbeat. Those machines do not only consider cardiac rhythm in making the diagnosis. They consider the energy levels and cardiac rhythm together. Without energy, you cannot even get pressure! $\endgroup$ – Léo Léopold Hertz 준영 Jan 8 '15 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Masi, you cannot measure irregular heart beat using blood pressure. Even a BP monitoring machine can measure irregular heart beat using pulse only. The only other way is using an ECG or echo cardiography. Irregular heart beat is a defined medical term. And my answer is the correct one. $\endgroup$ – One Face Jan 9 '15 at 0:35
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    $\begingroup$ m.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/… what I said is correct. No one measures irregular heart rate using bp. Bp measuring in a patient with irregular heat rhythm is only done to prevent shock. Echo cardiogram can visualize heart beats thus irregularities can be seen and diagnosed. Please check thoroughly before telling someone is wrong. $\endgroup$ – One Face Jan 9 '15 at 6:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Masi read the sentence how you deem fit. The question is clear cut. From your profile, it says you are in medical school. Then you should know from case studies that there is information put in them that is irrelevant. When you do your differential diagnoses, I hope you don't include the useless information. The same is occurring here. The question is: why do irregular heartbeats happen and what are it's implications short and long term? The question came about due to a setting on a BP. The question doesn't say anything about relating the two. $\endgroup$ – dustin Jan 9 '15 at 21:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Masi no one is saying give medical advice. Read my comment one more time. Again, I am telling you to re read something. $\endgroup$ – dustin Jan 9 '15 at 22:19

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