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Why Do Heart Arrhythmias Happen?

    Why Do Heart Arrhythmias Happen?

    The human heart works like a machine that is in charge of pumping blood and nutrients throughout the body. 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 cause heart arrhythmia. There 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. Vomiting, severe constipation, and urinary obstruction are causes of heart arrhythmia.

    On the other hand, 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 can affect its function and rhythm, which can be a cause of heart arrhythmias.

    Severe heart conditions such as coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease), 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 arrhythmias.


    People who take specific medications or drugs are more prone to heart palpitations and may be a cause of heart arrhythmias.

    Various drugs can be an inducing factor.

    These stimulants can trigger heart palpitations that will develop to more-serious types of arrhythmias. Illegal drugs specifically cause arrhythmias that can result in a sudden death due to ventricular fibrillation.

    Some drugs that can trigger arrhythmias or a change in your heart rhythm would be:

    • 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 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
    • Old age

    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 often require pacemakers.

    Metabolic Disorders

    Various immune system disorders such as kidney disease, diabetes, dehydration, and the like 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 arrhythmia development.

    The more common type of metabolic disorders that cause heart arrhythmia are:

    • Hypokalemia (low potassium levels)
    • Hyperkalemia (high potassium levels)
    • Hypomagnesemia (low magnesium levels)
    • Hypocalcemia (low calcium levels)
    • Acidosis (blood too acidic)
    • Alkalosis (blood too alkaline)


    Another common cause of heart arrhythmia would be anesthesia. Patients who are placed under anesthesia may experience fluctuations in blood pressures, electrolyte and metabolic disorders, and cardiovascular damage.

    Cardiac Trauma

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

    Risk factors

    In some instances, there are instances that may put you at a higher risk of developing cardiac arrhythmia.

    • High blood pressure. Having high blood pressure increases your risk of developing coronary artery disease. This could then lead to a blockage in the electrical impulses in your heart and be a cause for heart arrhythmia to happen.
    • 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. People who are diagnosed with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing arrhythmia, specifically atrial fibrillation.
    • Obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a disorder that disrupts the breathing function of a person when sleeping. It can therefore increase your risk of specific types of arrhythmia such as bradycardia, atrial fibrillation, and such.
    • Obesity. Studies show that obesity is a cardiovascular risk and can cause heart arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia.

    Lifestyle Changes to Improve Your Heart Health

    Changing your lifestyle into a healthier one can reduce your risks of developing arrhythmia. If you’ve been 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.


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    The Autonomic Nervous System and Cardiac Arrhythmias https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1638108 Accessed June 28, 2020

    Heart Arrhythmia https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-arrhythmia/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350674 Accessed June 28, 2020 Heart Arrythmia https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-arrhythmia/symptoms-causes/ Accessed June 28, 2020 Arrhythmia (Irregular Heartbeat) https://medlineplus.gov/arrhythmia.html Accessed June 28, 2020
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    Written by Nicole Alexine Florendo Updated Jun 28, 2020
    Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel