Arrhythmias have many causes. Chronic conditions may gradually damage the heart's structure or electrical system over a period of years while a
, 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.
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: CounselingStress management classesRelaxation techniquesYogaRegular exercise
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 pillsCertain heart medicationsAsthma
remediesPrescription opioids for pain relief
Avoid illegal drugs, especially cocaine, methedrine, and other amphetamines. These drugs increase your heart rate, which can lead to heart damage and arrhythmias.
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. In general, aim for at least 30 minutes per day on most days of the week. If you have a sedentary job, it may be beneficial to aim for 60 minutes of exercise a day. Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.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, 4 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
American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Manage other health conditions—If you have other health conditions, such as
high blood pressure
, or diabetes, it is important to follow your treatment plan to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Cocaine, other drugs, and heart disease. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cocaine-Marijuana-and-Other-Drugs_UCM_428537_Article.jsp#.Vmcd7k2FMdU. Updated September 20, 2012. Accessed March 25, 2014.
D'Alessandro A, Boeckelmann I, Hammwhoner M, Goette A. Nicotine, cigarette smoking and cardiac arrhythmia: An overview. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2012;19(3):297-305.
Leaf A. Omega-3 fatty acids and prevention of arrhythmias.
Curr Opin Lipidol.
Prevention strategies for atrial fibrillation (AFib or AF).
American Heart Association website. Available at:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/AboutArrhythmia/Prevention-Strategies-for-Atrial-Fibrillation-AFib-or-AF_UCM_423784_Article.jsp#.VmceZE2FMdU. Updated March 12, 2014. Accessed March 25, 2014.
Stress management. Help Guide website. Available at: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-management.htm. Updated February 2014. Accessed March 25, 2014.
7/1/2015 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115288/Atrial-fibrillation: Qureshi WT, O'Neal WT, Khodneva Y, et al. Association between opioid use and atrial fibrillation: The Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(6):1058-1060.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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