Arrhythmias can be caused by multiple factors. It may be congenital (present at birth) or the result of environmental factors, such as emotional or mental stress. Lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking, and use of nicotine or illegal drugs can also increase a person’s chances of developing an arrhythmia. Or it may be connected to another condition such as coronary artery disease, heart disease, or diabetes.
With such a complex causal background, arrhythmia prevention focuses mostly on preventing symptoms and reducing the likeliness of worsening symptoms or conditions.
Assess the Arrhythmia
First, preventing an arrhythmia or its symptoms relies heavily on understanding the following information:
- the cause—an external factor such as stress or smoking? Or the result of another disease?
- where in your heart the arrhythmia begins
- if your heart beats too fast, too slow, or irregularly
- what makes your symptoms worse
- what makes your symptoms better
With the help of your doctor, isolate potential triggers or times where your symptoms become worse. These may be stressful situations at work, home, or school. They may also be personal relationships or conflicts. Triggers may be substances like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. If you’re able to avoid these triggers or deal with them in a healthier, more productive way, you may be able to reduce and eliminate your symptoms.
Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
Maintaining a healthy diet and getting physical exercise at least five days a week may also increase your body’s ability to deal with arrhythmia—especially if your symptoms are brought on by exercise or physical activity. Exercise increases your heart’s strength and stamina; it decreases your chances of having heart health issues in the future.
Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants that may cause an increased heart rate. The same goes for some over-the-counter medicines and illegal drugs. Alcohol may slow down your heart rate. Avoiding these and eventually cutting them out of your life altogether may reduce symptoms and episodes of arrhythmia. It will also reduce your chances of dealing with health issues such as heart disease and cancer in the future.
Have a Plan of Action
If your arrhythmia or symptoms need medical attention—remember, many arrhythmias go undetected and often don’t have any symptoms—you should have a reaction plan designed for your specific needs. This may mean taking medication immediately, as soon as you begin feeling symptoms, or using a well-rehearsed exercise or maneuver to help get your heart back into rhythm. Work these out with your doctor to ensure you are giving yourself the best opportunity to recover from the symptoms in a healthy way.
Try Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There is good evidence that most Americans do not ingest enough omega-3 fatty acids. These have been shown to reduce pro-arrhthymic events in the heart and to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death. People with no existing heart disease can take 500 mg per day to reduce the risk of fatal arrhythmia, while people with underlying heart disease should take 1000mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day.
These levels can be achieved by eating two large meals of fatty fish per week, but most people can more easily obtain appropriate intake by taking a nutritional supplement (such as fish oil).