Reducing Your Risk of Arrhythmias (Heart Rhythm Disturbances)
Arrhythmias have many causes. Chronic conditions may gradually damage the heart's structure or electrical system over a period of years while a heart attack
, may cause sudden, urgent rhythm disturbances. Prevention of arrhythmias is mostly a matter of keeping your heart healthy and preventing recurrent rhythm disturbances. Many risk factors can be managed or changed. The more risk factors you control, the more you reduce your risk.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Arrhythmias
There are a few measures that specifically influence your risk of arrhythmias.
Stress may raise your risk of arrhythmias if you have predisposing factors. Stress or anxiety can quickly increase your blood pressure and heart rate. Chronic stress can compound these problems. If you cannot eliminate stress from your life, you can take steps to manage it. You may want to try some of the following techniques:
- Stress management classes
- Relaxation techniques
- Regular exercise
Beware of Medications That May Cause Arrhythmias
Ask your doctor or pharmacist what effect your medications will have on your heart rhythm. If you are predisposed to arrhythmias, ask about substitutes for the medications that can precipitate an abnormal rhythm. Be particularly wary of:
- Diet pills
- Certain heart medications
- Thyroid replacement
Avoid Illegal Drugs
Avoid illegal drugs, especially cocaine, methedrine, and other amphetamines. These drugs increase your heart rate, which can lead to heart damage and arrhythmias.
How to Keep Your Heart Healthy
Maintaining a healthy heart will reduce your chance of developing arrhythmias. There are steps you can take to keep your heart healthy and strong:
Quit smoking—When you quit smoking, your risk of cardiovascular disease drops significantly within the first year. Short term benefits begin within hours of quitting.
- Eat a heart healthy diet—Eat a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol. Increase your intake of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Ask your doctor about omega-3 supplements.
- Exercise regularly—Choose exercises you enjoy and will make a regular part of your day. Exercise reduces stress, improves your mood, and helps strengthen your heart muscle. Aim for at least 30 minutes per day on most days of the week.
- Drink alcohol in moderation—Moderate drinking is one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine, or one ounce of 100-proof spirits.
- Maintain a healthy weight—Portion control, combined with healthy food choices, will keep you on the right track. If you need help, check the ChooseMyPlate or American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics websites.
- Manage other health conditions—If you have other health conditions, such as high cholesterol, hypertension, or diabetes, it is important to follow your treatment plan to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease prevention overview. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 28, 2014. Accessed March 25, 2014.
Cocaine, other drugs, and heart disease. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cocaine-Marijuana-and-Other-Drugs%5FUCM%5F428537%5FArticle.jsp. Updated September 20, 2012. Accessed March 25, 2014.
D'Alessandro A, Boeckelmann I, et al. Nicotine, cigarette smoking and cardiac arrhythmia: An overview. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. [Epub 2011 May].
Eating right isn't complicated.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. Available at:
http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442473735. Updated March 2014. Accessed March 20, 2014.
Leaf A. Omega-3 fatty acids and prevention of arrhythmias.
Curr Opin Lipidol.
Prevention strategies for atrial fibrillation.
American Heart Association website. Available at:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/AboutArrhythmia/Prevention-Strategies-for-Atrial-Fibrillation-AFib-or-AF%5FUCM%5F423784%5FArticle.jsp. Updated March 12, 2014. Accessed March 25, 2014.
Stress management. Help Guide website. Available at: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/stress%5Fmanagement%5Frelief%5Fcoping.htm. Updated February 2014. Accessed March 25, 2014.
12/9/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Bao Y, Han J, et al. Association of nut consumption with total and cause-specific mortality. N Engl J Med. 2013;369(21):2001-2011.