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Why Do Heart Arrhythmias Happen?

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Nicole Alexine Florendo · Updated Dec 22, 2022

Why Do Heart Arrhythmias Happen?

The human heart works like a machine. In fact, it is in charge of pumping blood and nutrients throughout the body all our lives — from birth till death. And just like a machine, when its processes are disrupted, profound changes can be felt. This includes a change in your heart’s rhythm, which may then cause heart arrhythmiaThere are various causes and risk factors of heart arrhythmias, and these symptoms might not show in all cases. 

What Are the Causes and Risk Factors of Heart Arrhythmias?

Autonomic Imbalance

Both types of arrhythmias, such as bradycardia and tachycardia, are often caused by overstimulation of the vagal or sympathetic division of the nervous system. For example, excessive adrenaline may result in tachycardia.

A way to get rid of this specific cause of heart arrhythmia would be to reduce the excess vagal or sympathetic tone.

Once this has been achieved, balance will return.

Heart Problems

One of the causes and risk factors of heart arrhythmias involve medical conditions related to the heart, as they can affect the organ’s function. Eventually, these conditions may cause heart arrhythmias. To name a few, severe heart conditions such as coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, and heart valve disease can result in life-threatening arrhythmias.

So if you are someone who has had a heart attack or heart failure, there is a need for you to take necessary steps to reduce the risks of having bouts of arrhythmias. 


People who take specific medications or drugs are more prone to heart palpitations and and even heart arrhythmias.

Various drugs may induce arrhythmias, as these stimulants can trigger heart palpitations that will develop to more serious types of irregularities. Illegal drugs specifically cause arrhythmias that can result in a sudden death due to ventricular fibrillation. 

Some drugs and substances that can trigger arrhythmias or a change in your heart rhythm include:

  • Digoxin
  • Anti-arrhythmic drugs, especially quinidine, disopyramide, procainamide, sotalol, and dofetilide
  • Cocaine
  • Alcohol, especially after binge drinking
  • Antibiotics, including erythromycin, azithromycin, clarithromycin, and ciprofloxacin
  • Non-sedating antihistamines, such as terfenadine and astemizole
  • Psychotropic drugs, especially haloperidol, Thorazine, and methadone

Genetic Disorders 

Studies show that various genetic disorders can also be a leading cause of heart arrhythmias. Examples of causes of cardiac arrhythmias that are genetically connected are:

  • Long QT syndrome
  • Brugada syndrome
  • Some forms of heart block and bundle branch block
  • Sick sinus syndrome in young people
  • Certain types of atrial fibrillation
  • Certain types of ventricular tachycardia

Aging has been known to cause various medical complications, and cardiac arrhythmia is one of them. The scarring within the cardiac muscle may lead to sinus syndrome, heart blocks, or atrial fibrillation.

This is one of the reasons why the elderly may require pacemakers.

Metabolic Disorders

Various system disorders such as kidney diseases, diabetes, dehydration, and the likes can cause heart arrhythmias. Since electrolytes help conduct the electrical impulses in the heart, having a deficit can affect your heart’s rhythm and can lead to development of arrhythmias. 

The common types of metabolic disorders that can cause heart arrhythmias are:

  • Hypokalemia (low potassium levels)
  • Hyperkalemia (high potassium levels)
  • Hypomagnesemia (low magnesium levels)
  • Hypocalcemia (low calcium levels)
  • Acidosis 
  • Alkalosis


Another common cause of heart arrhythmia would be anesthesia. Patients who are placed under the influence of anesthesia may experience heart arrhythmias. 

Cardiac Trauma

People who experience cardiac trauma from chest wounds may experience muffled heart tones, murmurs, or arrhythmias. 

Risk factors

There are instances that may put you at a higher risk of developing cardiac arrhythmias. This includes the following:

  • High blood pressure. Having high blood pressure increases your risk of developing coronary artery disease. This could then lead to a irregularities in the way electrical impulses are produced and received in certain parts of your heart. Eventually, this may cause heart arrhythmia. 
  • Thyroid problems. A person that has an under-active or overactive thyroid gland may raise the risk of you developing arrhythmias. If the patient remains untreated, then it will persist.
  • Diabetes. Diabetic patients are at a higher risk of developing arrhythmia. 
  •  Obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a disorder that disrupts the breathing function of a person when sleeping. It can increase your risk to develop specific types of arrhythmia. Interestingly, it may lead to heart remodeling, which then further increases susceptibility to arrhythmia.
  • Obesity. Studies show that obesity is a cardiovascular risk and can cause heart arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia.

Changing your lifestyle into a healthier one can reduce your risks of developing arrhythmia. If you were diagnosed with this disorder, don’t worry, an arrhythmia is treatable.

Most people with arrhythmias have no trouble going back to their daily routines. And go on to lead healthy, fulfilling lives. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jezreel Esguerra, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Nicole Alexine Florendo · Updated Dec 22, 2022

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