Six warning signs of an arrhythmia revealed

Six warning signs of an arrhythmia revealed

  • Paul O’Grady’s death certificate reveals he died from sudden cardiac arrhythmia
  • Warning signs of an arrhythmia can include palpitations, chest pains and fainting

The condition impacts tens of millions of people worldwide.

But while an abnormal heart rhythm, medically known as an arrhythmia, can cause common symptoms that are usually harmless, the condition can be fatal.

There are many types of arrhythmias – ranging from a very fast heart rate of up to 300 beats per minute, to a slow heart rate below 60 beats per minute.

It was revealed on Saturday that British presenting royalty Paul O’Grady died from a the condition. He had suffered three heart attacks in the years leading up to his death.

From a ‘fluttering’ sensation in your chest to feeling as though your heart has skipped a beat, there are signs of an arrhythmia to watch out for.

From a ‘fluttering’ sensation in your chest to feeling as though your heart has skipped a beat, there are signs of an arrhythmia to watch out for

The heart’s conductive system sends out electrical impulses, which triggers heartbeat, which is usually between 60 and 80 beat per minute. But some people have a faster or slower heartbeat.

An arrhythmia when there is a problem with this system, which causes the heart’s rhythm to beats too slowly, too quickly or irregularly. 

These abnormalities can range from a minor inconvenience, to being fatal.

In people with heart conditions, certain types of arrhythmia can cause sudden cardiac arrhythmia — which kills around 500 people in the UK and 325,000 in the US every year.

The NHS says it’s not always possible to prevent an arrhythmia, but leading a healthy lifestyle can lower your risk of developing a heart condition.

READ MORE: Paul O’Grady died from cardiac arrhythmia, the 67-year-old’s death certificate reveals 

Fluttering in your chest 

Dr Ayyaz Sultan, a consultant cardiologist at clinic Pall Mall Medical, said an arrhythmia can mean your heart is out of its usual rhythm either occasionally or permanently.

The main warning sign of an arrhythmia is having palpitations – an awareness of your heart beat. 

Palpitations can be a ‘fluttering’ in your chest, feeling as though you have butterflies there.

Heart skips a beat 

It can also be feeling like your heart has skipped or missed a beat.

This symptom is caused by electoral signals firing from the wrong place at the wrong time, causing the heart to beat out of rhythm. 

Those who have this symptom tend to experience an early heartbeat because the heart contracts before the ventricles — the chambers where blood gathers — have had time to fill with blood. 

As a result, there is little or no blood pushed out to the body. 

This means sufferers don’t feel that contraction as a heart beat, while the next beat will feel more forceful, as extra blood is pushed out. 


Feeling light headed or dizzy can be a tell-tale sign of an arrhythmia.

When your heart isn’t functioning properly, the rest of your body — including your brain — may not get enough blood. 

The dizziness is caused by this decrease in blood flow to the brain. 

Paul O’Grady died following a cardiac arrest in his Kent home on March 28 at the age of 67


Suddenly losing consciousness is often the first sign of an irregular heartbeat. 

Sufferers are not usually passed out for long — just a few seconds or minutes.

But experts warn this is a serious symptom and those who faint often, or have other symptoms, should see their doctor. 


Shortness of breath is common among those with arrhythmia.

The symptom may be hard for sufferers to explain, as it can include feeling short of breath, tightness in the chest and feeling tired from walking. 

Since the heart isn’t pumping blood efficiently, your body isn’t receiving enough oxygen to fuel its activities, and the lack of oxygen can make you gasp for breath to compensate. 

READ MORE: New warning to daytime nappers: Taking 30 minute kips each day ‘may raise risk of ‘developing an irregular heartbeat 

Chest pain

The chest can feel tight, achy or sharp due to an abnormal heartbeat. 

The sensation may spread to the back and arms. 

While the cause can be harmless, such as due to heartburn, it may also be down to an arrhythmia or heart attack. 

But palpitations are not always a cause for concern as it can happen as a result of a whole host of things.

Dr Sultan said: ‘You could have palpitations even if your heart is healthy.’

‘They can be caused by abnormal heart electrical pathways, heart muscle disease an electrolyte imbalance in your blood, medications — certain antibiotics, anti-depressants, stimulant treatment for ADHD — or lifestyle choices such as alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, recreational drug misuse, acid reflux and exercise’, he explained.

Palpitations have also been observed in long Covid patients.

However, if left untreated, an arrhythmia can be deadly and lead to serious problems such as heart failure, stroke or cardiac arrest.

‘Medication can be used to treat an uneven heart rhythm,’ Dr Sultan added.

‘Depending upon the nature and origin of the arrhythmia the treatment may include medical treatment, cardioversion or an invasive form of investigation or treatment.’ 

But he stresses the ‘most important point to make’ is that while an arrhythmia can be serious, ‘it can also be a on-off and nothing to worry about’, so it is best to see a health professional if you notice any signs. 

Paul O’Grady died from an arrhythmia, his death certificate revealed. 

The 67-year-old died following a cardiac arrest in his Kent home on March 28.

He had spoken openly about his struggles with heart disease, and had three heart attacks between 2002 and 2014.

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