While it is likely you will experience at least one arrhythmia at some point in your life, certain factors may increase your risk of developing a more serious or long-term arrhythmia.


The risk of arrhythmia increases with age. This can be due to many factors including structural heart disease, drug use, and heart attack. In addition, there are some normal changes in the heart that occur as the heart ages that may decrease the conductivity of electrical impulses.

Alcohol Consumption

Consuming large amounts of alcohol can affect the electrical impulses in your heart. It may also make you more likely to develop atrial fibrillation. Chronic alcohol abuse may also cause your heart to beat less effectively.

Caffeine or Nicotine

Caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants accelerate your heart rate. Over time, this may lead to more serious arrhythmias or heart diseases that can cause arrhythmias.

Coronary Artery Disease

People with narrowed arteries, a history of heart attack, abnormal heart valves, or other conditions are at a higher risk of developing an arrhythmia.


A person with uncontrolled diabetes is at an increased risk of developing coronary artery disease and high blood pressure. Uncontrolled diabetes also increases the chances of heart attack compared to a person who has their diabetes controlled.

Medications and Supplements

Some over-the-counter and prescription medicines—such as cough suppressants and cold medications—contain pseudoephedrine, a drug that may speed up heart rates, increase blood pressure, and increase the chances of developing an arrhythmia.

Electrolyte Imbalance

Electrolytes, such as potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium, are essential for maintaining proper conduction of electricity between cells. Electrolyte levels that are either too high or too low can affect electrical impulses and may result in an arrhythmia.


Congenital heart defects—problems that are present at birth—can affect the heart’s structure and its ability to properly function.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) increases your risk of developing coronary artery disease or experiencing heart failure. It may also cause the walls of your heart to become thicker, which can change how electrical impulses circulate in your heart.

Illegal Drugs

Amphetamines and cocaine profoundly affect the heart, possibly causing any number of arrhythmias. They might also cause a ventricular fibrillation, which can lead to sudden death.


Viral infections—such as endocarditis or pericarditis—can weaken the heart muscle and the sac around the heart, making the transmission of electrical impulses and contractions harder.


Obesity is a risk factor for coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, heart disease, and arrhythmia.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

People with obstructive sleep apnea often experience bradycardia or atrial fibrillation. Sleep apnea can also deprive your body of oxygen, which stresses the heart even more.

Previous Heart Surgery

Heart surgery may damage the heart’s muscles, making electrical conduction and contraction more difficult.

Thyroid Problems

An overactive or underactive thyroid increases your chances of developing an arrhythmia. Whether it is releasing too many hormones or not enough, your thyroid gland can affect your heartbeat, which may lead to a too-fast or too-slow heart rate.

Weakened Heart

Conditions such as heart attack, heart failure, and leaking or narrowed heart valves weaken the heart and increase your chances of developing an arrhythmia.