Q: What is tachycardia?
Dr. Shalin Patel, interventional cardiologist, Pacific Permanente Group: Tachycardia is a racing heartbeat. While it’s normal for the heart to beat faster when you exercise, with tachycardia, your heartbeat speeds up even when you are at rest. This is caused by a problem with the electrical system in your heart.
Tachycardia can be dangerous or cause health problems if it’s not treated. When your heart is beating too fast, it may not be able to pump enough blood through your body to deliver oxygen to your muscles and organs. This can cause you to feel lightheaded, short of breath or have chest pain. You might also be able to feel heart palpitations in your chest or notice a rapid pulse rate. In some cases, you might faint.
Over time, if it’s not treated, tachycardia can increase your risk of blood clots, heart failure, stroke, repeated fainting and cardiac arrest. But this condition can be treated with medication and/or surgery. If you experience a racing heartbeat or any of these symptoms, see a doctor. He or she can diagnose the problem with an examination or a test called an electrocardiogram.
Lifestyle changes can also help, including maintaining a healthy weight with diet and exercise, smoking cessation, keeping drinking in moderation, limiting caffeine and any medications that contain stimulants, and controlling stress.
Q: How can I help my husband stop snoring?
Dr. David Crow, otolaryngologist, Advanced Pacific Ear, Nose and Throat: One of the main reasons men come to my office is for snoring — and usually it’s their wife bringing them in. Snoring happens when the soft tissue of the upper airway vibrates. It can be caused by some kind of resistance in the upper airway or by the collapse of tissues in the throat. Narrowing of the upper airway, nasal congestion, enlarged tonsils and adenoids, and obesity are all associated with snoring.
There are many things you can do to prevent low-level snoring, including losing weight, avoiding alcohol and sleeping on your side. Treatments that keep the airway open — like nasal sprays for allergies, Breathe Right strips, or an oral appliance that pulls your jaw forward — can also help. Some people recommend upper airway exercises, and it never hurts to try.
If nothing else works, surgery can be an option. Depending on the cause of the snoring, a surgeon can straighten the septum, shrink soft tissues in the nose, make the back of the tongue smaller, or reduce the palate.
In more severe cases, snoring can be associated with sleep apnea — a potentially serious disorder in which the person briefly stops breathing during sleep. Surgery can help, and the person may need to use a continuous positive airway pressure machine, commonly known as a CPAP machine, during sleep.
* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on Thursdays. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealthsystem.org/contact.