Your Health

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Arrhythmias (Heart Rhythm Disturbances)

If you have arrhythmias that cause symptoms, but are not serious or life-threatening, there are steps you can take to manage them. Lifestyle changes will improve your quality of life and allow you to be as active as possible.

Decrease Your Risk of Developing An Arrhythmia

Managing Fatigue

If your arrhythmia causes you to tire easily, you may have to limit your physical activities. Talk to your doctor about how much physical activity is appropriate for you. If you are being treated for heart failure, an arrhythmia can worsen the condition. Correcting the arrhythmia may improve your symptoms.

Avoid Triggers

Specific substances increase your heart rate and may trigger an arrhythmia. Monitor how substances affect your heart rate. Common substances that may cause problems include:

  • Nicotine
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Dietary and herbal supplements
  • Over-the-counter and prescription medications, including those that treat arrhythmia
  • Illegal stimulants, such as cocaine and methedrine

Managing Recurring Arrhythmias

Monitor Your Pulse

It is important to check your pulse periodically, especially if you have an artificial pacemaker. Checking your pulse allows you to keep track of your heart rate. Normal heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute. Talk to your doctor about what range your pulse should be.

Managing Sudden Loss of Control

If your arrhythmia might cause you to lose control or faint without warning, avoid situations that require constant alertness, such as driving. For your sake and the safety of others, do not operate motor vehicles or dangerous equipment until the risk of losing control has been resolved. Avoid working or even being in dangerous places, such as ladders, rooftops, trees, or cliffs.

Other Management
  • Maintain regular communication with your health care team, adhere to your treatment plan, and go to any recommended appointments. Your needs may change over time. Regular contact with your healthcare team will help you stay on top of any changes.
  • Be an active participant in your care. Talk to your team about symptoms or treatments that you are having difficulty with. Other treatments options may be available to help you better manage your arrhythmia.

Revision Information

  • Colucci R, Silver M, et al. Common types of supraventricular tachycardia: Diagnosis and management. Am Fam Physician. 2010;82(8):942-952. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/1015/p942.html. Accessed March 20, 2014.

  • Gutierrez C, Blanchard D. Atrial fibrillation: Diagnosis and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2011;83(1):61-68. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2011/0101/p61.html. Accessed March 20, 2014.

  • Living with an arrhythmia. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/arr/livingwith.html. Updated July 1, 2011. Accessed March 20, 2014.

  • Prevention & treatment of arrhythmia. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/PreventionTreatmentofArrhythmia/Prevention-Treatment-of-Arrhythmia%5FUCM%5F002026%5FArticle.jsp. Updated October 25, 2012. Accessed March 20, 2014.