How does an arrhythmia affect my life?

A person can expect to live a normal life if the arrhythmia (abnormal rhythm) is properly treated. Arrhythmias can be effectively treated with medications or cured with catheter ablation.

Many arrhythmias are harmless. It's common to have an occasional extra heartbeat and not even be aware of it, or to only have mild palpitations. People who have harmless arrhythmias can live healthy lives and usually don't need treatment for their arrhythmias.

Even people who have serious arrhythmias often are treated successfully and lead normal lives.

Ongoing Care: If you have an arrhythmia that requires treatment, you should:

  • Keep all of your medical appointments. Always bring all medicines you're taking to all of your doctor visits. This helps ensure that all of your doctors know exactly what medicines you're taking, which can help prevent medication errors.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions for taking medicines. Check with your doctor before taking over-the-counter medicines, nutritional supplements or cold and allergy medicines.
  • Tell your doctor if you're having side effects from your medicines. Side effects could include depression and palpitations. These side effects often can be treated.
  • Tell your doctor if arrhythmia symptoms are getting worse or if you have new symptoms.
  • Allow your doctor to check you regularly if you're taking blood-thinning medicines.

If you have an arrhythmia, taking care of yourself is important. If you feel dizzy or faint, you should lie down. Don't try to walk or drive. Let your doctor know about these symptoms.

Ask your doctor whether vagal maneuvers are an option for you. These exercises, which people who have certain arrhythmias can do, may help stop a rapid heartbeat.

Lifestyle Changes: Many arrhythmias are caused by underlying heart disease. Keep your heart healthy by following a healthy diet.

A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans and fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products. A healthy diet is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugar.

A healthy lifestyle also includes doing physical activity regularly, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and keeping your blood cholesterol and blood pressure at healthy levels.

This answer from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has been reviewed and/or edited by Dr. William D. Knopf.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.