Prevention and Treatment of Arrhythmia

doctors having a meeting

Do you need treatment?

Most arrhythmias are considered harmless and are left untreated. Once your health care professional has documented that you have an arrhythmia, they will need to find out whether it's abnormal or merely reflects the heart's normal processes. He or she will also determine whether your arrhythmia is clinically significant – that is, whether it causes symptoms or puts you at risk for more serious arrhythmias or complications of arrhythmias in the future. If your arrhythmia is abnormal and clinically significant, a treatment plan will be developed. View an animation of arrhythmia.

Treatment goals

  • Prevent blood clots from forming to reduce stroke risk, especially for people with AFib.
  • Control your heart rate within a relatively normal range.
  • Restore a normal heart rhythm, if possible.
  • Treat heart disease/condition that may be causing arrhythmia.
  • Reduce other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

Living with Arrhythmias

Taking medications

  • Take all medications exactly as prescribed.
  • Never stop taking any prescription medication without consulting your health care professional.
  • Tell your health care professional about any side effects you have.
  • Tell your health care professional about all your other drugs and supplements, including over-the-counter medications and vitamins. Download our printable medication log (PDF).

Monitor your pulse

You should know how to take your pulse – especially if you have an artificial pacemaker.

  • Put the second and third fingers of one hand on the inside of the wrist of the other hand, just below the thumb OR on the side of your neck, just below the corner of your jaw.
  • Feel for the pulse.
  • Count the number of beats in one full minute.
  • Keep a record of your pulse along with the day and time taken and notes about how you felt at the time. Use our blood pressure/pulse tracker (PDF).

Certain substances can contribute to an abnormal heartbeat, such as:

  • Smoking
  • Long-term excessive alcohol consumption
  • Psychotropic drugs (used to treat certain mental illnesses)
  • Antiarrhythmic agents (The same drugs used to treat arrhythmia can also cause arrhythmia. Your health care team will monitor you carefully if you're taking antiarrhythmic medication.)
  • Beta blockers for high blood pressure
  • Illegal drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines

If you're being treated for arrhythmia and use any of these substances, be sure to discuss this with your health care professional.

Manage your risk factors

Having certain arrhythmias increases your risk of heart attack, cardiac arrest and stroke. Work with your health care team and follow their instructions to control other risk factors:

Take it one day at a time

The best thing you can do is to follow your treatment plan and take things one day at a time. Sometimes you may feel that you don't get the support you need and that the people around you aren't very understanding. That's common because others don't easily see your symptoms. It's hard for them to understand that you might be struggling to function normally. Help others to understand by educating them about your condition and by asking for support to help follow your treatment program.