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What to know about heart arrhythmia treatments

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TreatmentWhat is it?DiagnosisLifestyle and home remediesSummary
Heart arrhythmia can be frightening, but the right treatment plan can help you manage it. Treatment could include home remedies, medication, therapies, or surgical options.
Medically reviewed by Angela Ryan Lee, MD, FACC
Updated on

Heart arrhythmia is when your heart beats too fast, too slowly, or irregularly.

Home remedies may help manage the condition, but treatments include specific drugs or therapies. In severe cases, a doctor may recommend more invasive treatments.

Heart arrhythmia treatments

Adult female laying on a yoga mat with her hand over her heart relaxing as part of her heart arrhythmia treatments
Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

There are several treatment options available for heart arrhythmia.

Drugs

Medications known as beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers can slow down a fast heart rate, while antiarrhythmic drugs can restore the heart’s regular rhythm.

Alongside drugs that aim to regulate your heartbeat, a doctor may also prescribe an anticoagulant, which is a blood-thinning drug, to reduce the risk of serious heart events like blood clots.

For specific arrhythmia types, like those affecting the heart’s upper chambers (supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)) or the ventricles (ventricular tachycardia (VT)), a doctor may also prescribe:

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Therapy

In some cases, doctors may suggest therapies to correct arrhythmia:

  • Cardioversion: This is when electric shocks restore the heart’s regular rhythm.
  • Catheter ablation: This is a minimally invasive procedure where the heart is purposely scarred to target specific areas that cause arrhythmia.
  • Vagal maneuvers: These are ranges of movements or interventions, like handstands, coughing, or holding your breath, that aim to alter your heart rhythm.

Device-based and surgical options

In some cases, doctors may recommend device-based therapy to treat heart arrhythmia.

This is where a surgeon will insert a device like a pacemaker, which helps regulate the heartbeat, or an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), which is a small device that can help prevent sudden, fatal cardiac events.

Other procedures may include:

A surgeon may only perform some procedures if you require heart surgery for reasons other than arrhythmia.

What is heart arrhythmia?

Heart arrhythmia is when your heart beats too fast, too slowly, or irregularly, and it’s believed that 1.5% to 5% of people worldwide live with the condition.

Arrhythmia has many causes, including:

In some cases, the cause remains unknown.

There are different types of heart arrhythmia, including tachycardia, when your heart beats too fast when you rest. and bradycardia, where the heart beats too slowly.

You can have heart arrhythmia without experiencing any symptoms, but if you do, they may include:

  • palpitations
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • dizziness and fainting

Seeking medical attention

In some cases, a heart arrhythmia can be life threatening. If you experience any symptoms, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention.

How is heart arrhythmia diagnosed?

Diagnosis of heart arrhythmia typically begins with a physical examination and medical history review.

Your doctor may also order tests, such as:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): This is a short, pain-free test where patches stuck to your body measure your heart activity.
  • Echocardiogram: This test produces images of your heart using sound waves.
  • Holter monitor: This wearable device measures your heart activity for 24 to 48 hours.
  • Stress test: This test involves checking your heart using ECG or other imaging techniques while you exercise or take medication to add stress to the heart.
  • Blood tests: These may include tests like a complete blood count, electrolytes, or kidney and thyroid function.

With the help of a cardiologist, most arrhythmia types are manageable. However, outcomes can be more uncertain with specific arrhythmia types or if you have any underlying conditions.

Can lifestyle strategies and home remedies help?

Alongside medical treatment, lifestyle strategies and home remedies can help manage heart arrhythmia. These include:

  • Diet: According to a 2021 review, the heart benefits of the Mediterranean diet are notable in reducing the risk of heart arrhythmia, especially if you also get plenty of fish, extra virgin olive oil, and magnesium.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can improve the heart’s strength and function. If you have heart arrhythmia, exercise may improve the condition.
  • Quitting smoking: If you smoke, it can increase your risk of heart arrhythmia, and quitting lowers your risk.
  • Managing anxiety and stress: A 2021 review suggests that anxiety stress can sometimes trigger heart issues, so finding ways to manage these conditions may prevent or improve symptoms.
  • Avoiding or limiting alcohol: Alcohol consumption is a known risk factor for heart disease, so reducing your intake can also limit heart arrhythmia risk.
  • Home remedies: A review from 2016 explores how home remedies like garlic may improve heart conditions, including arrhythmias, though more research is needed.

Summary

Heart arrhythmia is when your heart beats too fast, too slowly, or irregularly. Factors like heart damage, lifestyle, and particular medical conditions can cause this.

Heart arrhythmia treatment options include medications, therapy, and in some cases, surgery. Additionally, lifestyle strategies and home remedies may help manage symptoms and reduce risk.

Diagnosis typically begins with a physical examination, a review of your medical history, and different tests, like an ECG.

If you experience symptoms of heart arrhythmia, it’s important to seek medical attention and work with your doctor to find the best treatment plan.

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