Arrhythmia is an abnormal heartbeat that may cause serious complications. Learn about arrhythmia symptoms, treatment, and how to keep your heart healthy.


Arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat that can lead to dizziness, shortness of breath, and life-threatening complications like heart attack or stroke. Between 1.5 and 5 percent of people are estimated to have arrhythmia, although the actual number is likely much higher since many arrhythmias don’t cause noticeable symptoms. Not all arrhythmias require treatment, but those that do may be addressed through medicine, surgery, or the use of implantable devices like pacemakers.

Learn the facts about arrhythmia, including its symptoms, causes, and what factors put you at an increased risk for this condition. Discover how arrhythmias are treated and what steps you can take to improve your heart health.

What is an arrhythmia?

Senior woman with arrhythmia getting an exam from her health provider

It’s perfectly normal for your heart rate to slow or increase slightly during periods of exercise, stress, or sleep. An arrhythmia, however, refers to an abnormal heartbeat. Sometimes called a heart arrhythmia or cardiac arrhythmia, the condition can involve a heart that beats too fast or slow or at an inconsistent rhythm that involves skipped or extra heartbeats.

Understanding how the heart works can be helpful when learning about arrhythmias.

The basics of heart function

The heart is a muscular organ about the size of a fist that is the center of your circulatory system. Its structure is divided into two upper chambers (called atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles). The heart is connected to an intricate network of blood vessels that circulate blood throughout the body.

Blood pumped by the heart travels from the lungs, through the heart, and out to vessels to deliver essential oxygen and nutrients to organs. Meanwhile, the heart pumps blood containing carbon dioxide from every corner of the body back to the lungs, where it’s expelled as a waste product with each breath. Without a properly beating heart, oxygen-rich blood can’t reach all areas of the body and a wide range of problems can occur.

A healthy adult heart beats between 60 and 100 times per minute. This beat is powered and regulated by the heart’s electrical system, which signals the heart to pump.

The heart’s electrical system resides in a group of specialized cells called the sinus node, which is positioned in the upper right chamber of the heart. It’s sometimes referred to as the heart’s natural pacemaker. The sinus node initiates an electrical current that travels through the atrioventricular (AV) node (a path located between the heart’s upper and lower chambers). This signals the heart to pump blood.

Several factors can disrupt the heart’s electrical system and lead to arrhythmia. These issues include stress and consuming excessive amounts of caffeine, as well as medical conditions like structural heart defects, sleep apnea, and high blood pressure (hypertension).

Arrhythmia vs. dysrhythmia

Arrhythmia and dysrhythmia refer to the same thing—an abnormal heartbeat. Fast, slow, and irregular heart rhythms are typically called arrhythmias.

Back to top

What are the types of arrhythmia?

There are more than a dozen different types of arrhythmias. Most can be classified as tachycardia, bradycardia, or premature heartbeats.


Tachycardia is an unusually fast heartbeat. It’s natural for your heartbeat to temporarily increase when you’re exercising or feeling anxious. Tachycardia, however, refers to a resting heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute. (Resting heart rate is how many times your heart beats per minute when you’re at rest.)

There are multiple types of tachycardia, including:

Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common arrhythmia. It affects more than 2.5 million people in the United States, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Some cases of AFib are temporary and resolve on their own, while others are long-term (chronic) and require medical attention.

During AFib, the heart’s upper chambers (atria) beat quickly, irregularly, and out of sync with the lower chambers. AFib usually leads to a heart rate between 110 and 140 beats per minute. In some cases, it’s possible to experience more than 400 heartbeats per minute.

This chaotic pumping can cause blood to accumulate in the atria and possibly form a clot, which is a jelly-like clump of blood. A clot that forms in the heart or bloodstream can be dangerous, as it may travel to the brain and cause a stroke.

The American Heart Association (AHA) says:

  • Someone with AFib is four to five times more likely to experience a stroke than someone without AFib.
  • Between 15 to 20 percent of people who experience a stroke also have AFib.

AFib is on the rise. More than 12 million people in the U.S. are projected to have AFib by 2030, according to the HA.

Atrial flutter

Similar to atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter occurs when the heart’s upper and lower chambers beat at different rates. It’s generally recognized as less severe than AFib, though someone with atrial flutter is still at an increased risk of stroke. Atrial flutter may cause your heart to beat as fast as 250 to 350 times per minute.  

Ventricular tachycardia 

Ventricular tachycardia is caused by flawed electrical signals in the heart’s lower chambers (ventricles). It’s characterized by a rapid heartbeat that makes it difficult for the ventricles to adequately fill with blood and pump enough blood throughout the body. While a few seconds of ventricular tachycardia may not be a cause for concern, longer periods of the condition can lead to ventricular fibrillation.

Ventricular fibrillation 

Ventricular fibrillation is a medical emergency that occurs when the ventricles quiver (tremble) instead of pumping normally. More than a few minutes of ventricular fibrillation can lead to cardiac arrest and death. Ventricular fibrillation typically occurs in people with serious injuries or underlying heart diseases.

Supraventricular tachycardia

Supraventricular tachycardia refers to a group of arrhythmias that affect the heart’s upper chambers and cause a fast or unpredictable heartbeat. Someone with this condition may experience 150 to 220 heartbeats per minute. Supraventricular tachycardia often occurs in younger people and doesn’t always require treatment.


Bradycardia refers to a resting heart rate of fewer than 60 beats per minute. A slow heart rate is perfectly normal for some people, especially younger people and individuals who are physically fit. A healthcare provider (HCP) can help you understand your resting heart rate and what’s normal for you.

Common types of bradycardia include:

Atrioventricular block   

An atrioventricular block occurs when a malfunction in the heart’s electrical system causes it to beat slower than it should. Some atrioventricular blocks are mild and never cause noticeable symptoms, while others are severe and require immediate medical attention. The condition usually affects older adults and is sometimes related to injuries or underlying heart disease.

Sick sinus syndrome

A problem with the sinus node (the heart’s natural pacemaker and the core of its electrical system) is referred to as sick sinus syndrome. Damage to the sinus node caused by certain medical conditions or medications can lead to heart rhythms that are too slow (or, in some cases, too fast). Most cases of sick sinus syndrome occur in older adults.  

Premature heartbeats

A premature heartbeat may feel like your heart “skipped a beat.” It happens when a beat occurs too early, which leads to a pause that’s followed by a stronger, more noticeable beat. Some premature heartbeats take place in a pattern that alternates with regular heartbeats. Routine factors like stress, intense exercise, and drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee can cause this condition.

Premature heartbeats are common and usually aren’t a cause for concern, although they may lead to other, more serious types of arrhythmia. In rare cases, frequent premature heartbeats that occur in the lower chambers can damage the heart.

Back to top

What are the signs and symptoms of arrhythmias?

Some people with arrhythmias don’t notice any symptoms. Those who do may experience:

  • Heart palpitations (a heartbeat that feels like it’s fluttering, pounding, or skipping beats)
  • A slow heartbeat (in cases of bradycardia)
  • A fast, racing heartbeat (in cases of tachycardia)
  • Chest pain, pressure, or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Spells of fainting or nearly fainting
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion 
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness  
  • Increased sweating    

Only an HCP can diagnose arrhythmia, but you can get an idea of how quickly or slowly your heart is beating by measuring your heart rate. To do this, place your middle and index fingers on the inside of your opposite wrist, just below the base of your thumb. You should feel a very subtle tapping or beating. This is your pulse.

Next, set a timer for 30 seconds and count how many taps or beats you feel against your fingers during this period. Multiply this number by two to determine your heart rate. Many fitness trackers and smartphone apps can also track your heart rate.

A healthy adult heart rate ranges between 60 and 100 beats per minute, though factors like exercise and anxiety can temporarily increase this number.

Back to top

When should you see a healthcare provider?

Man sits on an exam table talking to a doctor about his arrhythmia symptoms

Some arrhythmia symptoms are also possible signs of a heart attack, stroke, or other life-threatening health concerns. Call 911 immediately if you or someone around you experiences:

  • Chest pressure or pain that occurs suddenly or comes and goes
  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath  
  • Pain in the upper body, which may include the jaw and neck, stomach, back, or one or both arms
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness, nausea, or a cold sweat
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness  

In the event that someone around you stops breathing, call 911 and perform hands-only CPR. If you’re in a public place, there may be an automated external defibrillator (AED) available for use. This device delivers electrical shocks to restart a heart that has stopped beating. No training is required to use an AED. Instructions will be listed on the device itself, and many devices have voice prompts that guide you through the process of using it. 

Promptly schedule a visit with an HCP if you experience other symptoms of arrhythmia, such as heart palpitations. An HCP can determine the cause of your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment.  

Back to top

What causes arrhythmia?

Arrhythmia is usually caused by an issue with the heart’s electrical system, which controls your heart rhythm. The condition can occur if electrical signals travel through the heart abnormally or if cells that initiate electrical signals don’t work properly.

While some arrhythmias are consistently present, others may be triggered by factors that come and go. In other cases, the cause of arrhythmia is unknown.  

Medical conditions that can disrupt the heart’s electrical system and lead to arrhythmia include:

  • Coronary artery disease (the most common form of heart disease, which entails blocked arteries in the heart)
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack or damage from a past heart attack
  • Congenital heart defects (problems with heart structure that are present at birth)
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea   
  • Kidney disease
  • Viral infections such as COVID-19 or the flu
  • Myocarditis (heart inflammation)  
  • Lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Cardiomyopathy (abnormal changes to the heart muscle)  
  • Heart valve disorders 
  • Thyroid gland disorders   

For some people, certain situations or behaviors can trigger an irregular heartbeat by increasing blood pressure, placing additional strain on the heart, or causing the body to release stress hormones. Common arrhythmia triggers include:

  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Consuming too much caffeine
  • Having high or low blood sugar levels  
  • Being dehydrated
  • Experiencing intense emotions, such as stress, anger, anxiety, or surprise
  • Engaging in physical activity
  • Coughing or vomiting 
  • Using illegal stimulant drugs, such as amphetamines or cocaine  
  • Having high or low levels of electrolytes (minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium) in the blood

Back to top

What are the risk factors for arrhythmia?

Arrhythmia can occur in anyone, including children and young adults. Still, certain factors may increase the risk of experiencing this condition.

Established risk factors for arrhythmia include:

Age: Your risk of arrhythmia increases as you age, though arrhythmias caused by congenital heart defects are more commonly diagnosed in children and young adults.  

Family history: Some arrhythmias have a genetic basis and run in families. This means you may be at an increased risk if a close blood relative (such as a parent or sibling) has arrhythmia. 

Medical conditions: Many of the causes that contribute to arrhythmia are also considered risk factors for the condition. You may be more likely to develop arrhythmia if you have certain medical conditions, including:

Medications: Taking certain medicines may increase the risk of arrhythmia in some people. These include some drugs used to treat mental health conditions and high blood pressure, along with some antibiotics and over-the-counter cold and allergy medications. Speak with your HCP if you’re concerned about how medications may be affecting your arrhythmia risk.  

Surgery: Your risk of arrhythmia may be higher in the days, weeks, or months following surgery to the throat, heart, or lungs.

Lifestyle choices: Unhealthy habits like smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and using illegal drugs like amphetamines and cocaine increases your chances of arrhythmia and other health problems. Your risk of arrhythmia is also elevated if you’re obese or don’t get much exercise.

Back to top

How is arrhythmia diagnosed?

Man sits on an exam table as a nurse prepares him for an electrocardiogram

If your HCP suspects you may have arrhythmia, they’ll likely begin by asking you questions about your symptoms, current health concerns, personal and family medical history, and what medications or supplements you’re taking.

The next step is usually a physical exam. Your HCP will listen to your heart rate, heart rhythm, and how blood sounds as it flows through your heart. They’ll also check for swelling in your arms or legs, which is a possible indicator of heart problems. They will also likely screen for signs of other conditions that could contribute to an irregular heartbeat, such as thyroid disease.

Finally, they may perform blood tests to check levels of substances like electrolytes and thyroid hormones.

Because many arrhythmias don’t cause noticeable symptoms, some people are diagnosed after receiving a routine sports physical exam or screening for another health issue.

Tests for arrhythmia

Based on your physical exam, symptoms, and risk factors, your HCP may then perform one or more of the following tests to assess heart function and to rule out or diagnose arrhythmia:  

Electrocardiogram: An electrocardiogram (also known as an EKG or ECG) is a standard part of many sports physicals and the most common test for arrhythmia. During this quick test, an HCP will place sticky sensors on your chest and sometimes your legs or arms. These sensors are wired to a computer, which measures the heart’s electrical activity and displays the results.  

Holter monitor: Also called a continuous ambulatory electrocardiographic monitor, a Holter monitor is essentially a portable electrocardiogram that’s worn around the neck. It’s used to measure the heart’s electrical activity over the course of a day or so.

Cardiac event recorder: If someone’s arrhythmia occurs sporadically or passes quickly, a cardiac event recorder can be used to monitor the heart over a longer period of time. These recorders are available as finger clips, bracelets, patches, and small devices that are implanted under the skin of the chest.

Echocardiograms: Echocardiograms produce live images of the heart using ultrasound imaging. This allows HCPs to view the heart’s structure, movement, and size. This test can also provide information on the heart’s strength and how blood moves through it.

Other heart imaging tests: Computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans produce pictures of the heart, which can help reveal abnormalities in its chambers or arteries.

Tilt table test: People who experience fainting spells may receive tilt table testing to assess how their blood pressure and heart rate react to changes in position. During the test, you are secured to a special table that gradually moves you into an upright position. An HCP assesses heart rate, blood pressure, and other vitals during the test.   

Stress test: A stress test may be performed if an HCP suspects someone’s arrhythmia is triggered by physical activity. During a stress test, your heart rate and rhythm are monitored as you pedal on a stationary bicycle or jog on a treadmill.  

Electrophysiology study (EPS): Also called electrophysiologic testing, an EPS study measures the heart’s electrical activity to help uncover underlying arrhythmia. The procedure is performed under local anesthesia and involves threading a small wire through a blood vessel to reach the heart. This wire gently stimulates the heart, which will trigger an abnormal heartbeat in someone with arrhythmia.  

Genetic testing: Genetic testing may be useful if a person has a close blood relative with arrhythmia. This test can help identify if arrhythmia is caused by a certain gene (a unit of DNA that’s passed from parent to child).

Back to top

How is arrhythmia treated?

Treating arrhythmia isn’t always necessary. An HCP may determine that an arrhythmia isn’t a significant medical issue after assessing its cause and severity. Still, it’s important to prioritize your heart health, effectively manage other conditions you may have, and attend all recommended medical appointments even if you have an arrhythmia that doesn’t require treatment.  

When arrhythmia treatment is necessary, the goals may include:

  • Addressing the underlying cause of arrhythmia, if possible
  • Regulating your heart rate and/or rhythm
  • Reducing the risk of stroke by preventing blood clots. (This is especially important if you have atrial fibrillation.)

Your HCP may refer you to a medical doctor who specializes in treating arrhythmias and related disorders, such as a cardiologist or cardiac electrophysiologist.

A combination of approaches may be recommended to treat arrhythmia, including:

Medication for arrhythmia

Some people with arrhythmia can treat or manage their condition and prevent complications like stroke by taking medication. This may include:

  • Antiarrhythmic drugs: These disrupt the way in which abnormal signals exit the sinus node or move through the heart.
  • Atropine: This may be given in an ambulance or emergency department (ED) to address a slow heartbeat.   
  • Adenosine: This may be given in an ambulance or ED to slow a rapid heartbeat.
  • Anticoagulants: These drugs help prevent blood clots from forming or getting bigger.  
  • Beta blockers: These help lower heart rate and reduce blood pressure by hindering the effects of adrenaline (a hormone released by the body, especially during periods of stress).
  • Calcium channel blockers: These treat high blood pressure and some arrhythmias by disrupting the transport of calcium through heart and blood vessel tissue.    
  • Digoxin: This can improve heart function and regulate heart rate.

As with any medication, drugs used to treat arrhythmia come with potential side effects. Be sure to speak with your HCP before stopping or adjusting the dosage of any prescribed medication. It’s also important to promptly inform your HCP of any unexpected side effects that occur.

Therapies for arrhythmia

Additional therapies may be recommended if medicine alone doesn’t control your arrhythmia. This might include:

  • Vagal maneuvers: These simple relaxation techniques help slow heart rate in people with certain types of tachycardia. Examples of common vagal maneuvers include placing an ice pack on your face, coughing in a certain way, and bearing down (as if you were having a bowel movement) while holding your breath. Your HCP can determine which vagal maneuvers are best for you.  
  • Cardioversion: This nonsurgical therapy uses electrical shocks to help regulate heart rhythm in people with atrial fibrillation. Cardioversion is called defibrillation when it’s used as an emergency measure in someone whose heart unexpectedly stops pumping (cardiac arrest).

During cardioversion, patches are strategically placed on the chest and sometimes the back. These patches deliver low-energy electrical shocks that help reset heart rhythm. Anesthesia is administered for scheduled cardioversion, though the actual treatment only takes a few minutes. 

Devices and surgery for arrhythmia

Your HCP may recommend a procedure to place a special device in your body or surgically correct a heart issue if your arrhythmia doesn’t improve with other approaches. Examples of procedures and devices to treat arrhythmia include:

  • Pacemaker: A pacemaker is a small device that’s placed in the chest to regulate heart rate and rhythm. It works by delivering gentle electrical pulses that can help the heart’s chambers beat in sync. Some pacemakers are placed temporarily, while others are permanent.   
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD): A cardioverter defibrillator is a small device that’s placed under the skin around the collarbone. It sends electrical pulses or shocks to the heart to help correct or prevent an abnormal heartbeat. It can also prevent death in people with severe arrhythmias by restoring heartbeat in the event of cardiac arrest.  
  • Catheter ablation: This procedure involves feeding tiny tubes called catheters to the heart through blood vessels. A type of energy is then sent through the catheter to create tiny areas of scar tissue in the heart. (The forms of energy used may include extreme cold, heat in the form of radio waves, or laser light.) The resulting scarring can prevent irregular heartbeats by stopping abnormal electrical activity from passing through the heart.
  • Maze surgery: This procedure involves making very small incisions that create a tiny “maze” of scar tissue in the upper portion of the heart. Abnormal signals that cause irregular heartbeats can’t pass through this scar tissue.
  • Coronary bypass graft surgery: This procedure may be performed in someone whose arrhythmia is caused by severe coronary artery disease. Surgery involves making a new pathway for blood to travel around a blocked artery in the heart.

Lifestyle changes for arrhythmia

You can increase your chances of successful arrhythmia treatment and help prevent complications by making heart-healthy lifestyle choices. These include:

It’s also important to limit or avoid alcohol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises people assigned male at birth (AMAB) to consume no more than two alcoholic drinks per day, while people assigned female at birth (AFAB) should limit their consumption to one drink per day. 

One “drink” is defined as:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor beverages like hard seltzers
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, such as rum, whiskey, gin, vodka, and tequila

Back to top

What are the possible complications of arrhythmia?

Arrhythmia may cause complications, especially if it’s poorly managed or left untreated. According to the AHA, atrial fibrillation (the most common type of arrhythmia) increases the risk of stroke by five times and doubles the likelihood of heart-related deaths.

Other possible complications stemming from arrhythmia include:

If you have arrhythmia, it’s a smart idea to carry a medical identification card, bracelet, or necklace with information about your condition and your HCP’s contact information. This will provide emergency medical personnel and others with critical information if you experience cardiac arrest or another serious complication.

Following your arrhythmia treatment plan can help lower the chances of complications. For instance, taking anticoagulant medication as prescribed reduces the risk of stroke. Speak with your HCP to learn more about how to minimize your risk of arrhythmia complications.  

Back to top

What questions should you ask your healthcare provider?

Receiving a diagnosis of arrhythmia may leave you feeling overwhelmed or confused. If this is the case, it’s important to be candid with your HCP and voice any questions you may have. Remember, there’s no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to your health.  

A few basic questions you may consider asking include:

  • What type of arrhythmia do I have?
  • Do you know what caused my arrhythmia?
  • Does my arrhythmia require treatment? If so, can you explain the benefits and risks of my treatment options?
  • Should I avoid any foods or beverages? What things should I add to my diet?
  • Is it safe to exercise? Do I need to avoid certain types of physical activity?
  • When should I contact you? When should I seek emergency care?  
  • Should I be screened for arrhythmia complications? If so, how often?
  • How can I effectively manage my other health conditions (if any) with arrhythmia?

Back to top

Can you prevent arrhythmia?

Mature man using stretch bands in an outdoor class as part of a health routine to prevent arrhythmia

There’s no sure way to prevent arrhythmia. But making a few heart-healthy lifestyle choices may help lower your risk. These include:

  • Avoiding or quitting smoking and other forms of tobacco
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight 
  • Managing health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and sleep apnea   
  • Limiting or avoiding caffeinated products like coffee, energy drinks, cola, tea, and certain over-the-counter supplements or medications
  • Limiting or avoiding stimulant substances, which may be found in some nutritional supplements and cold and cough medications. (Always read labels and talk to your HCP about what products to avoid.) It’s also important to avoid taking illicit drugs with stimulant properties, such as cocaine or amphetamines.
  • Keeping emotional stress in check through stress management techniques like yoga, deep breathing exercises, and meditation 
  • Prioritizing sleep, aiming for between 7 and 9 hours every day 
  • Avoiding alcohol or limiting your consumption to one drink per day if you’re assigned female at birth, or two drinks per day if you’re assigned male at birth   
  • Nourishing your body with a heart-healthy diet emphasizing vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats
  • Exercising regularly  

How often should I exercise?

The CDC advises most adults to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity every week, plus two or more periods of muscle-strengthening activities

  • Moderate-intensity aerobic activities can include walking briskly, doing water aerobics, pushing a lawn mower, playing doubles tennis, and biking on level ground.  
  • Vigorous-intensity aerobic activities can include running, jogging, playing basketball, swimming laps, playing singles tennis, or riding a bike at a fast pace or on hilly terrain.   
  • Muscle-strengthening activities can include using resistance bands, lifting weights, performing bodyweight exercises like push-ups, and even doing some household activities like yard work and gardening.

Speak with your HCP about what exercises are best for your needs. Some forms of physical activity aren’t recommended for people with certain health conditions.

Back to top

What is the outlook for arrhythmia?

The outlook for arrhythmia varies widely depending on its type and severity. Some people with arrhythmia never experience symptoms and don’t require treatment. For others, symptoms are severe and medical treatment is essential. Arrhythmia can lead to life-threatening complications and may even prove fatal, especially if it’s left untreated.

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a particularly dangerous form of arrhythmia. A 2020 study published in The BMJ found that while deaths related to AFib have steadily declined over the last 45 years, the condition could still reduce a person’s lifespan by approximately two years.

Receiving timely and appropriate treatment for arrhythmia can help you avoid complications and lead a full, active life.

Back to top

Living with arrhythmia

Being mindful of your condition and prioritizing your heart health is important if you’re living with arrhythmia. The AHA encourages people with arrhythmia to:

Take all medications as prescribed 

Never stop or adjust your dosage without first speaking with your HCP. Promptly inform them of any side effects you experience. You should also let them know about any other prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, or supplements you’re taking. 

Manage your health

Taking steps to keep your heart healthy and to lower your risk of complications like stroke, heart attack, and cardiac arrest can go a long way if you have arrhythmia. Partner with your HCP and carefully follow their guidance to help you:

  • Control blood pressure 
  • Avoid or quit smoking and vaping
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage cholesterol levels
  • Stay physically active  
  • Eat a nutritious, heart-healthy diet

Know how to measure your heart rate

If you have arrhythmia that’s controlled with a pacemaker, it’s particularly important for you to know how to monitor your heart rate. It’s simple. Here’s how to do it:  

  • Place your middle and index fingers on the inside of your opposite wrist, just below the base of your thumb. The subtle beating you feel against your fingers is your pulse.
  • Set a timer for 30 seconds, then count how many beats you feel during this period.
  • Double this number. This is your heart rate.

A healthy adult heart rate ranges between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Contact your HCP if you notice any significant changes in your heart rate or if your arrhythmia symptoms become more frequent or severe.  

Seek support 

Living with a condition like arrhythmia may sometimes feel unpredictable or frightening. During these times, it’s important to share your feelings and lean on loved ones for support. Some people with arrhythmia find it helpful to speak with a licensed mental health provider such as a counselor, psychiatrist, or psychologist about healthy ways to cope with distressing emotions or thoughts. Attending in-person or online support groups for people with arrhythmia can also be beneficial.

To learn more about arrhythmia, its signs and symptoms, and how you can effectively manage your condition, speak with your HCP.

Back to top

Featured arrhythmia articles

Topic page sources
open topic sources

American Heart Association. Common Tests for Arrhythmia. Last reviewed November 16, 2022.

American Heart Association. Medications for Arrhythmia. Last reviewed November 17, 2022.

American Heart Association. Prevention and Treatment of Arrhythmia. Last reviewed November 17, 2022.

American Heart Association. Symptoms, Diagnosis and Monitoring of Arrhythmia. Last reviewed November 16, 2022.

American Heart Association. Understand Your Risk for Arrhythmia. Last reviewed November 15, 2022.

American Heart Association. What is an Arrhythmia? Last reviewed November 11, 2022.

American Heart Association. What is Atrial Fibrillation? Last reviewed March 23, 2023. 

Arrhythmia Alliance. Arrhythmia Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know. Accessed December 12, 2023.

Baptist Health. Dysrhythmia. Accessed December 12, 2023.

Boston University School of Public Health. Atrial Fibrillation Less Deadly Than It Used to Be, But Still Cause for Concern. Published August 11, 2020.   

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol. Last reviewed April 19, 2022.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need? Last reviewed June 2, 2022.

Cleveland Clinic. Arrhythmia. Last reviewed March 20, 2023.  

Johns Hopkins Medicine. Sick Sinus Syndrome. Accessed December 12, 2023.

Mayo Clinic. Arrhythmia. Last reviewed October 13, 2023.  

Mayo Clinic. Supraventricular Tachycardia. Last reviewed April 30, 2022.   

MedlinePlus. Digoxin. Last revised June 15, 2017.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Arrhythmias – Causes and Triggers. Last updated March 24, 2022.  

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Arrhythmias – Living With. Last updated March 24, 2022.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Arrhythmias – Types. Last updated March 24, 2022.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Arrhythmias – What is an Arrhythmia? Last updated March 24, 2022.   

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. How the Heart Works. Last updated March 24, 2022.  

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What is Atrial Fibrillation? Last updated November 30, 2022.   

Vinter N, Huang Q, Fenger-Grøn M, Frost L, Benjamin E J, Trinquart L et al. Trends in excess mortality associated with atrial fibrillation over 45 years (Framingham Heart Study): Community based cohort study BMJ 2020; 370 :m2724.

Yale Medicine. Atrioventricular Block. Accessed December 12, 2023.

More On Arrhythmia