What is Heart Block?
Heart block is a condition in which the rhythm or rate of the heart is affected. This means that the pattern of the heartbeat and the number of times it beats varies irregularly with time.
During every heartbeat, an electrical impulse runs from the upper to the lower chambers. This impulse signals the heart to contract and pumps blood to the rest of the body. A delay, disruption, of obstruction of the pathway for these electrical signals, can cause this irregular heartbeat.
Some people suffer from heart block since birth. This disorder is known as congenital heart block and typically arises due to autoimmune diseases such as lupus or a birth defect.
For others, it develops later in life due to numerous reasons. These include:
- Surgery that affects the electrical system of the heart
- Gene modifications
- Diseases and muscle disorders
- Clogged arteries, inflammation of the heart muscle, or heart failure
Types of Heart Block
There are three types of heart block based on severity:
First Degree Heart Block:
This disorder involves some minor heartbeat disruptions and missed beats. It generally does not require treatment and is the least serious type of heart block. In most cases, it is not even noticed by the person suffering from the disorder.
Second Degree Heart Block:
Here, certain signals don't reach the right places. Typically the heart beats slower than usual and there will be some dropped beats. This heart block is more severe and is quite noticeable. It will affect the day-to-day life of an individual and will require treatment.
Third Degree Heart Block:
Also known as a complete heart block, no electrical messages get through. The rhythm of the heartbeat is very low, and in some extreme cases may even stop completely. This type of heart block may be fatal and will require immediate treatment.
>> Also Read: Types of Health Insurance Plans offered by Care
Heart Block Treatment
Depending on the severity, various heart block treatments are available:
Numerous anti-arrhythmic drugs are available, that can modify the electrical signals of the heart, ensuring regulation of the heartbeat. Typically, the patient is kept under observation while testing the medication for a period of two days. Then, they are taken back to the laboratory for a follow-up electrophysiology study. The goal of this test is to find the drug that worked best for that particular individual.
Pacemaker and Implantable Devices
These devices are implanted beneath the skin, usually below the collarbone. They are connected to a wire or wires that are connected to the heart through a vein. The device gives a tiny electrical impulse that stimulates the heart to beat whenever necessary. These devices work on demand whenever they sense a slow heart rhythm.
Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator
This is a device for individuals who are prone to severe rapid heart rhythms that are life-threatening. Similar to a pacemaker, it is also inserted underneath the skin below the collarbone but is a little bigger. A wire is positioned inside the heart through a vein, and it performs the exact opposite action of a pacemaker. It provides an electrical impulse when the heart rate is too fast. In some cases, it can also increase the heart rate when it is deemed to be too slow.
In this treatment for heart block, a tiny metal-tipped wire is inserted into the heart through an artery or vein in the leg to stop abnormal electrical impulses in the heart tissue. This technique allows patients to leave the hospital in just a single day, which is a fraction of the time it would take to recover from open-heart surgery. This is typically only used for patients who do not respond well to medications or those who cannot take them.
Changes to Lifestyle
Certain types of heart blocks occur due to artery blockages and heart failure. In such cases, simple changes to lifestyle can ensure heart block treatment without surgery. Daily exercise, for at least 30 minutes, and a balanced diet can do wonders for heart health. In addition to this, avoiding alcohol consumption and smoking can significantly improve heart function and health. On sustaining this lifestyle for a period of several months, clogged arteries and coronary heart disease risk are considerably lower, and it may even completely eliminate heart block in certain individuals.
Care Health Insurance (Formerly Religare Health Insurance) offers comprehensive insurance policies for heart-related disorders. Care Heart insurance plan is targeted for individuals already suffering from pre-existing heart issues, and Heart Mediclaim is an indemnity based policy that provides cover against 16 different heart illnesses. A healthy lifestyle will also see benefits in other spheres of life and is something that every individual must strive for. Insurance must only act as a fallback in the case of an unexpected complication.