A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop arrhythmias with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing arrhythmias. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk of arrhythmias.


The normal aging process makes the heart more susceptible to arrhythmias. As a result, arrhythmias are more common in people who are aged 60 years or older, but they can occur at any age, even in children. Risk can be compounded by other health conditions or treatments that can affect the heart's rhythm.

Cardiovascular Conditions

Chronic cardiovascular conditions prevent the heart and blood vessels from functioning normally. These conditions reduce the body's blood supply while increasing the heart's workload. Over time, the extra strain can damage the heart muscle and/or blood vessels, increasing the risk of arrhythmias. Cardiovascular conditions include:

  • Coronary artery disease (CAD)
  • Heart failure
  • Enlarged heart muscle—cardiomyopathy
  • High blood pressure
  • Valvular heart disease
  • Infections that affect heart and valve function
  • Congenital heart defects (heart or valve defects that were present at birth)
  • Medications and Other Substances

    Certain medications and everyday substances may interfere with your heart's electrical circuit, increasing your risk of arrhythmias. These include:

  • Nicotine from smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Excess caffeine
  • Over-the-counter medications, such as cough and cold medicines
  • Dietary and herbal supplements
  • Prescription medications that are used to treat:     
  • Heart conditions
  • Asthma
  • Mental disorders, such as depression
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Pain—specifically opioids
  • Illegal stimulants, such as cocaine and methedrine
  • Other Risk Factors

    Other factors that are associated with arrhythmias include:

  • History of heart surgery
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Persistent stress
  • Frequent, angry outbursts
  • Mental disorders, such as panic disorder
  • Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa
  • Electrolyte imbalances, such as low potassium or low calcium levels in the blood