An arrhythmia is any abnormal heart rhythm. The normal heart rate is typically beats 60–100 times per minute. 

Bradycardia is a term used to describe a heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute. Some forms of bradycardia may cause symptoms or require medical treatment. 

Tachycardia is a term used to describe a heart rate greater than 100 beats per minute. Some forms of tachycardia may cause symptoms or require medical treatment.

Diagnostic Tools

Many tests can be used to diagnose an arrhythmia. More than one test is often done before a definitive diagnosis can be made. Some of the tests may include:

  • physical examination and patient history   

  • electrocardiogram (ECG)  

  • holter monitor  

  • event monitor

  • echocardiogram 

  • stress test

  • coronary angiography  

  • electrophysiology study (EPS)     

Risk factors

Risk factors for an arrhythmia may include:

  • alcohol

  • antiarrhythmic medications (treatment for one type of arrhythmia can cause another) 

  • appetite suppressants or diet/weight loss medications

  • blood chemistry imbalances (low potassium)

  • caffeine (coffee, soft drinks, energy drinks)

  • cardiomyopathy

  • cocaine use

  • endocrine abnormalities (thyroid)

  • inappropriate use of amphetamines or cocaine

  • prior heart attack

  • use of certain prescription medications, such beta blockers, psychotropics, sympathomimetics (a class of drugs whose effects mimic a stimulated sympathetic nervous system)


Patients with arrhythmia may present with one or several of the following symptoms:

  • changes in the rate, rhythm, or pattern of the pulse

  • chest pain

  • fainting

  • fast or slow heart beat (palpitations)

  • light–headedness, dizziness

  • paleness

  • shortness of breath

  • skipping beats

  • sweating

Treatment Options

There are several treatment options for patients with an arrhythmia. These may include: 

  • life–style modification

  • antiarrhythmic medications

  • cardioversion (shock defibrillation)   

  • implantable cardioverter–defibrillator/implantable cardiac defibrilliator (ICD)

  • pacemaker 

  • radiofrequency ablation  


Steps to prevent or to reduce the risk of an arrthymia may include: 

  • eating a low fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in animal fat

  • increasing exercising (as recommended)

  • maintaining a healthy weight 

  • moderate caffeine consumption

  • moderate alcohol consumption

  • quitting smoking