Heart Disease and Abnormal Heart Rhythm (Arrhythmia)

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What Drugs Are Used to Treat Arrhythmias?

A variety of drugs are available to treat arrhythmias. These include:

  • Antiarrhythmic drugs. These drugs control heart rate and include beta-blockers.
  • Anticoagulant or antiplatelet therapy. These drugs reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke. These include warfarin (a "blood thinner") or aspirin. Another blood thinner called Pradaxa (dabigatran) was approved in 2010 to prevent stroke in people with atrial fibrillation.

Because everyone is different, it may take trials of several medications and doses to find the one that works best for you.

Lifestyle Changes Can Help Arrhythmias?

  • If you notice that your arrhythmia occurs more often with certain activities, you should avoid them.
  • If you smoke, stop.
  • Limit your intake of alcohol.
  • Limit or stop using caffeine. Some people are sensitive to caffeine and may notice more symptoms when using caffeine products (such as tea, coffee, soft drinks, and some over-the-counter medications).
  • Stay away from stimulants used in cough and cold medications. Some such medications contain ingredients that promote irregular heart rhythms. Read the label and ask your doctor or pharmacist what medication would be best for you.

What Is Electrical Cardioversion?

If drugs are not able to control a persistent irregular heart rhythm (such as atrial fibrillation), cardioversion may be required. After administration of a short-acting anesthesia, an electrical shock is delivered to your chest wall that synchronizes the heart and allows the normal rhythm to restart.

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