Do you recall your last doctor’s visit? At one point or another, they probably brought out a stethoscope to listen to your heart. But, what were they looking for?
The sound your doctor hears while your heart beats is known as a murmur. Contrary to public belief, the term itself doesn’t indicate illness or a disorder. But in fact, refers to the movement of blood pumping through the heart’s many chambers and valves.
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During this process, the doctor may also be listening for an arrhythmia. This refers to any change from the normal sequence of electrical impulses in the heart. These impulses may happen fast, slow or erratically and cause the heart to beat in synchronization.
In today’s blog, we’ll be discussing the key differences between a heart murmur and arrhythmia and how you can spot heart problems early on.
A heart murmur is sometimes (but not always) a sign of arrhythmia. Heart murmurs typically take place in children, 2 to 4 years old. However, they may appear or disappear at any age.
A change in heart rate doesn’t signal the murmur is cause for concern, though. If your doctor hears it, they may recommend undergoing further testing to confirm the murmur is “innocent.” Unless testing suggests otherwise, you won’t require medication or for you to restrict your diet or physical activities.
However, if the murmur is abnormal, it may indicate defective heart valves. A stenotic heart valve may have a smaller opening and experiencing difficulties opening or closing. If the latter, this may lead to blood leaking backward through the valve. A murmur may also occur when the heart muscle contracts. This is often referred to as a systolic heart murmur.
A preventive heart scan is helpful in identifying an issue like this in the early stages. Our GE Revolution CT Scanner detects the smallest of irregularities before they become life-threatening. To learn more about the benefits of preventive heart scans, click here.
As mentioned, an arrhythmia occurs when the heart doesn’t beat at a regular pace. When the heart doesn’t beat properly, it can effectively pump blood to the lungs, brains and other organs of the body. There are various kinds of arrhythmias and are classified depending on their location in the heart:
- Atrial Fibrillation
- Conduction Disorders
- Premature Contraction
- Ventricular Fibrillation
An arrhythmia may also be caused by a congenital heart defect, heart disease or high blood pressure. Other lifestyle factors like stress, caffeine, smoking and some medications may also cause an arrhythmia.
How are they treated?
During your appointment, the doctor will listen to your heart with the stethoscope to check for murmurs. If there’s one present, they’ll determine where it’s located by what time of noise it’s making and if it changes. If your doctor suspects an arrhythmia, they’ll refer you to a cardiologist.
From there, testing and treatment will depend on the type of arrhythmia (listed in a previous section) and its location in the heart. Avoiding caffeine or certain medications may stop a mild arrhythmia. But in more serious cases, medical devices like pacemaker may be used to speed up a heart that’s beating too slow or a doctor may recommend surgery.
How can you spot it early?
The key to identifying an arrhythmia early is undergoing routine heart screenings and visits with your doctor. This is especially true if you have a family history of heart disease or partake in lifestyle habits that may trigger it.
To learn more about our heart scans and how we can help you identify, treat and prevent an arrhythmia, we invite you to reach out to us today at (918) 879-6161.
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