An arrhythmia can be caused by many things. It may be congenital (present at birth). It may be the result of environmental factors, such as emotional or mental stress. Lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking, and use of illegal drugs increase your chances of developing an arrhythmia. Arrhythmia may be caused by another condition, such as coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, or diabetes.
You may not be able to prevent the development of an arrhythmia. But if you have an arrhythmia, you can take steps to prevent future symptoms and reduce the chances that your arrhythmia will get worse.
The first step is to understand your arrhythmia. Start by answering the following questions:
- What causes your arrhythmia? Is it brought on by an external factor such as stress or smoking? Or is it the result of another disease?
- Where in your heart does the arrhythmia begin?
- Does your heart beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly?
- What makes your symptoms worse?
- What makes your symptoms better?
Understanding your arrhythmia will help you make choices that help you avoid symptoms. It also helps you communicate your needs to family, friends, and healthcare providers.
With the help of your doctor, try to determine things that trigger your symptoms, or times when 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 such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
Medications you take for another condition might be causing arrhythmia. If this is the case, talk to your doctor about changing the medication or reducing the dose. Don’t try to do this on your own. You might make things worse.
If you’re able to avoid these triggers or deal with them in a healthier, more productive way, you may be able to reduce or eliminate your symptoms.
Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
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 also affect 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, you should have a reaction plan designed for your specific needs. This may mean taking medication as soon as you begin feeling symptoms, or using a well-rehearsed exercise or maneuver to help get your heart back into rhythm. Work 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 events in the heart that lead to arrhythmia, and to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in cold-water, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating two large meals of fatty fish per week. Most people can more easily obtain appropriate intake by taking a nutritional supplement (such as fish oil).