Aging & Health A to Z
Causes & Symptoms
Your heart’s electrical activity changes as you age—and that can lead to arrhythmias. Many other factors cause irregular heartbeats, including:
- Drug abuse
- Alcohol abuse
- Too much caffeine
- Certain medications
- Some vitamin supplements and herbal remedies
- Stress or anxiety
- Damage to the heart muscle due to a heart attack or coronary artery disease
- Heart failure
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Sleep apnea (temporary stoppage of breathing during sleep)
- Overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism)
- Mineral imbalances, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium.
Some older adults don’t feel an arrhythmia as a racing or thumping feeling. Instead, you could have seemingly unrelated symptoms like lightheadedness, fainting, or shortness of breath. You might not even know you have an arrhythmia until it is discovered during a routine medical check-up.
Each type of arrhythmia has different symptoms and treatments some of which overlap.
Symptoms of atrial fibrillation include:
- A fluttering feeling in your chest
- A very rapid pulse, shortness of breath
- However, you may have only vague symptoms, such as feeling tired or listless, or even no symptoms at all.
Symptoms of bradycardia include:
- Shortness of breath
- Fainting spells
- Chest discomfort.
The most common symptom of ventricular fibrillation is:
- Loss of consciousness or fainting
Ventricular fibrillation is a life-threatening emergency. Call 911 and begin CPR.
- Early warning signs of ventricular fibrillation may include those similar to other arrhythmyias including chest pain, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, or nausea.
Updated: March 2012
Posted: March 2012