Risk Factors for Arrhythmias (Heart Rhythm Disturbances)

A risk factor increases the chances of getting a disease or health problem. You can have arrhythmias with or without any of these listed below. The more risks you have, the higher your chances of having them. Talk to your doctor about the steps you need to take to lower your risk.


Arrhythmias are more common in people who are aged 60 years and older. It's in part due to wear and tear of an older heart. Other health or heart problems may also play a role. People who are older are more likely to have many health problems.

Cardiovascular Conditions

Any health issue that affects how the heart works can increase the risk of arrhythmias. The most common heart conditions:

Medicines and Other Substances

Drugs or substances that can affect the rhythm of the heart:

  • Smoking or other tobacco products
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Too much caffeine
  • Over-the-counter medicines such as those used to treat a cough or cold
  • Dietary and herbal supplements
  • Prescription medicines that are used to treat:
    • Heart problems
    • Asthma
    • Thyroid problems
    • Pain—mainly opioids
  • Illegal drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines

Other Risk Factors

Heart rhythms may also be affected by:



Arrhythmia. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/arrhythmia. Accessed January 4, 2019.
Atrial fibrillation. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115288/Atrial-fibrillation. Updated August 22, 2018. Accessed January 4, 2019.
Atrial flutter. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115251/Atrial-flutter. Updated February 22, 2017. Accessed January 4, 2019.
Atrioventricular (AV) conduction disorders. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated November 27, 2017. Accessed January 4, 2019.
Understanding your risk for arrhythmia. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/arrhythmia/understand-your-risk-for-arrhythmia. Accessed January 4, 2019.
Ventricular arrhythmias. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated October 19, 2018. Accessed January 4, 2019.
7/1/2015 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115288/Atrial-fibrillation: Qureshi WT, O'Neal WT, Khodneva Y, et al. Association between opioid use and atrial fibrillation: The Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(6):1058-1060.
Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 1/4/2019

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