What is an arrhythmia? A problem with the rhythm of the heart's beats. An arrhythmia occurs when the heart beats too fast, too slow, prematurely, or erratically. Most people have some type or level of arrhythmia at some point, most of the time they aren't noticeable or serious. A high heart rate during exercise is normal. Physically fit people also sometimes have a lower resting heart rate, a condition called bradycardia, because their heart muscle is efficient.

Symptoms of an arrhythmia can include a fast or slow heartbeat, pain or discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath, tiredness, or heart palpitations.

There are many possible arrhythmias, only a few are listed here. If you are concerned about having an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia, be sure to contact your physician. A person can have a tachycardic, bradycardic, supraventricular, or atrial arrhythmia, these are terms that help to describe the condition. There are many types of arrhythmias, such as Long QT syndrome and Sick Sinus Syndrome, this article is only a brief introduction to the topic.

Tachycardia: the rate of heartbeats is overly fast, more than 100 beats per minute.

Bradycardia: the rate of heartbeats is slow, less than 60 beats per minute. A slow heart rate is not always an issue, athletes may have a heart that pumps fewer times than normal in a minute because their heart muscle is efficient and does not need to pump as often to move blood throughout the body.

Supraventricular arrythmias: heart rhythm problems that originate in the atria (upper chambers) of the heart.

Eg: Supraventricular tachycardia - any tachycardia that is supraventricular, or beginning in the atria of the heart (above the ventricle).

Atrial flutter: Similar to atrial fibrillation, however the heart in atrial flutter has more organized and rhythmic heartbeats than in atrial fibrillation. Atrial flutter is a serious condition, and can lead to complications such as stroke.

Atrial fibrillation (AFib): the atrium beats rapidly, between 240 and 350 beats per minute. The atria quiver, or fibrillate, because they are moving so quickly that they cannot contract fully. Atrial fibrillation mainly affects older people. Risk factors for atrial fibrillation also include high blood pressure (hypertension) or other cardiac conditions. Atrial fibrillation can, if the patient does not receive treatment, cause serious conditions such as stroke.

Ventricular arrhythmias: heart rhythm problems that originate in the ventricles (lower chambers) of the heart.

Anxiety disorders can be intertwined as both a risk factor and a symptom of heart disease. The difference between these two is that, as a risk factor, anxiety causes the issues in the heart. As a symptom, feelings of anxiety or an anxiety disorder can develop because of cardiac issues. The information below will go over both aspects of how anxiety is linked to heart disease.


There are conditions which can lead to an arrhythmia, such as

  • An overactive or underactive thyroid gland,
  • high blood pressure,
  • Blockage in the arteries of the heart,
  • A heart attack,
  • Scar tissue from a previous heart attack, and
  • Changes to the structure of the heart. Arrhythmias can also be caused by
  • Sleep apnea,
  • Diabetes,
  • Smoking,
  • Alcohol,
  • Caffeine,
  • Drug abuse,
  • Stress,
  • Anxiety,
  • Genetics, and
  • Certain medications and supplements.

Risk Factors

The chance of developing an arrhythmia can be increased by certain conditions, including

  • A high-fat diet,
  • Aging,
  • Genetics,
  • Smoking,
  • High cholesterol,
  • Chemical imbalances of potassium,
  • Magnesium or calcium and
  • Obesity

There are some heart conditions, like

  • High blood pressure,
  • Scarring,
  • Congenital conditions, and
  • Abnormal deposits of tissue that are risk factors for an arrhythmia.


Depending on the individual patient and their condition, can include stroke. Arrhythmias are linked to an increased chance of blood clots. A clot can travel from the heart to the brain, where it blocks blood flow, causing a stroke. There are certain medications, like blood thinners, that decrease the risk of a blood clot, thereby lowering the chance of a stroke.

Depending on age, the type of arrhythmia, and risk of blood clots, your doctor will decide whether a particular arrhythmia patient should receive blood thinners. Another possible complication of an arrhythmia is heart failure. If the heart pumps ineffectively for a long time, because of an arrhythmia, heart failure can be the result. Controlling the arrhythmia which is causing heart failure can sometimes improve the overall health of the heart.


Treatment for an arrhythmia varies. Certain arrhythmias are treated with medication, vagal maneuvers, cardioversion, or with a procedure called catheter ablation. There are other treatments available: implantable devices like a pacemaker or ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator), or certain other surgical procedures. The treatment your doctor uses depends on the arrhythmia and the patient.

Heart healthy lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of developing a heart arrhythmia. These lifestyle choices can include a heart-healthy diet, being physically active, a healthy weight, not smoking, reducing stress or anger, minimizing use of caffeine and alcohol, and cautious use of over-the-counter medications (such as those for cold or cough).