Risk Factors for Arrhythmias (Heart Rhythm Disturbances)
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.
AgingNormal 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 ConditionsChronic 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
- Valvular heart disease
- Infections that affect heart and valve function
- Congenital heart defects (heart or valve defects that were present at birth)
Substance UseCertain 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
- Excess alcohol intake
- Excess caffeine
- Over-the-counter medications, such as cough and cold medicines
- Dietary and herbal supplements
- Prescription medications that are used to treat:
- Illegal stimulants, such as cocaine and methedrine
Other Risk FactorsOther factors that are associated with arrhythmias include:
- Having heart surgery
- 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
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Mostofsky E, Penner EA, et al. Outbursts of anger as a trigger of acute cardiovascular events: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur Heart J. [Epub 2014 Mar].
Murray-Thomas T, Jones ME, et al. Risk of mortality (including sudden cardiac death) and major cardiovascular events in atypical and typical antipsychotic users: a study with the general practice research database.Cardiovasc Psychiatry Neurol. [Epub 2013 Dec].
Peretto G, Durante A, et al. Postoperative arrhythmias after cardiac surgery: Incidence, risk factors, and therapeutic management. Cardiol Res Pract. [Epub 2014 Jan].
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Understanding your risk for arrhythmia. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/UnderstandYourRiskforArrhythmia/Understand-Your-Risk-for-Arrhythmia%5FUCM%5F002024%5FArticle.jsp. Updated October 25, 2012. Accessed March 19, 2014.
Who is at risk for an arrhythmia? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/arr/atrisk.html. Updated July 1, 2011. Accessed March 19, 2014.
- Reviewer: Michael J. Fucci, DO
- Review Date: 12/2014
- Update Date: 12/20/2014
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