What can cause cardiac rhythm disturbances, or arrhythmias?

Cardiac rhythm disturbances, or arrhythmias, can be caused by many different environmental factors, as well as other health problems.

Environmental causes of arrhythmias can include:

- smoking
- alcohol abuse
- use of some drugs (such as cocaine or amphetamines)
- abuse of certain prescription or over-the-counter medicines
- too much caffeine

Health conditions that cause the heart to work too hard and can lead to arrhythmias include:
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • the presence of too much stress hormone (cortisol) in the bloodstream
Other health conditions that can lead to arrhythmia in some people include:
  • heart attack
  • coronary heart disease
  • heart failure
  • overactive or underactive thyroid gland (too much or too little thyroid hormone produced)
  • rheumatic heart disease
Certain congenital heart defects (present at birth) can cause arrhythmias.

This content originally appeared online in "The Patient Guide to Heart, Lung, and Esophageal Surgery" from the Society of Thoracic Surgery.

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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.