Recognizing the Risk Factors for Arrhythmia

Posted: Saturday, October 30, 2021
By: David Weisman, MD, Electrophysiologist with Georgia Heart Institute

Did you know? Around one in 18 Americans has a heart arrhythmia, or a disruption of the heart’s normal rhythm. Are you at risk for developing one?

When your heart beats normally, you probably don’t notice it much except when you’re exerting yourself, like when you go up a flight of stairs or exercise. But many people experience a heart rhythm disturbance known as an arrhythmia.

In fact, one study suggests that around one in four American adults age 40 or older will develop an irregular heartbeat at some point. This could mean the heart beats too fast, beats too slow, or beats erratically.

Would you know if you were at risk of developing an arrhythmia? Read on for a look at the risk factors.

Your Risk of Arrhythmia Increases If…

Wondering whether you’re at risk of a heart rhythm issue? Well, many of the risk factors for arrhythmias overlap with those for heart health issues more broadly.

Risk factors for arrhythmia include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Eating a diet high in fat
  • Excessively drinking alcohol
  • Having coronary artery disease
  • Having diabetes
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having high cholesterol
  • Having sleep apnea
  • Not effectively managing stress
  • Smoking

Many of the risk factors outlined above are within your control to change. If you have a medical condition that puts you at an increased risk of arrhythmia, you can limit its effects by working with your doctor to manage the condition effectively.

There are also some risk factors that are outside of your control. These non-controllable risk factors include being of advanced age, having certain congenital health conditions, and having a family history of heart disease.

You Can Decrease Your Risk of Arrhythmia By…

We briefly mentioned this above, but you can take steps to limit your risk of a heart rhythm issue. Living a heart-healthy lifestyle is a big step in the right direction. Start here:

  • Get to and maintain a healthy weight. If you aren’t sure what’s healthy for your specific age, gender, or body type, your doctor can help you determine a good goal weight.

  • Don’t smoke, or stop if you do. Some people have success quitting cold turkey, but you can also work with a doctor to decide on a cessation strategy that will work best for you.

  • Move more. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each day, and supplement exercise by simply getting up and moving more often.

  • Limit your alcohol intake. Women should have no more than one drink per day, and men should have no more than two.

  • Fuel your body with healthy foods. Fill your plate with fruits and veggies, lean protein, and whole grains. Add in a serving of heart-healthy fish once or twice a week.

The bottom line? While there are some factors you can’t control, there are many steps you can take to keep your heart beating normally.

Leading Heart Care for Generations

As the state’s most forward-thinking heart and vascular program, Georgia Heart Institute is providing innovative and personalized care that’s improving and saving lives for generations. Whether you’re focused on disease prevention or needing advanced care for a complex condition, the cardiologists, surgeons and specialists of Georgia Heart Institute can provide the highest quality care when it matters most.