• Causes of Arrhythmias (Heart Rhythm Disturbances)

    Arrhythmias are very common, both the harmless type and the dangerous type. An arrhythmia can be caused by:
    • The heart's natural pacemaker developing an abnormal rate or rhythm
    • The normal electrical conduction pathway being interrupted
    • Another part of the heart (other than the sinus node) taking over as pacemaker
    The most common cause of dangerous arrhythmias is a heart attack. When the heart is deprived of adequate blood supply during a heart attack, its electrical activity can become erratic. Diseased heart valves and diseased heart muscle, direct injury to the heart, diseases that alter the body's chemical balance, and several kinds of medication can also upset the heart's circuitry.
    The most common causes of arrhythmia include:
    • Coronary artery disease (eg, heart attacks)
    • Diseased myocardium (heart muscle)
    • Abnormal heart valves
    • Birth defects
    • Stress
    • Caffeine
    • Tobacco
    • Alcohol
    • Illegal stimulants, such as cocaine and methedrine
    • Diet pills
    • Some over-the-counter medications, such as cough and cold medicines
    • Various prescription medications, for example:
      • Heart medicines
      • Asthma medicines
      • Psychoactive medicines, such as antidepressants
      • Thyroid hormone replacement medicines


    Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine . 14th edition. McGraw-Hill; 1998.

    Mayo Clinic and Foundation for Medical Education and Research website. Available at: http://www.mayo.edu/ .

    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/ .

    National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://www.nih.gov/ .

    Snow, V, Weiss, KB, LeFevre, M, et al. Management of newly detected atrial fibrillation: a clinical practice guideline from the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2003;139:1009

    Weber, BE, Kapoor, WN. Evaluation and outcomes of patients with palpitations. Am J Med. 1996;100:138.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    Maybe it's time to stop guessing. If you've been wanting to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.