Abnormal Heart Rhythm Home Care
Home care for a cardiac arrhythmia includes:
- Stop smoking.
- Avoid exposure to secondary smoke.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Avoid caffeine.
- Avoid decongestant medications.
- Reduce stress.
- Learn how to take your own pulse.
- If you have high blood pressure:
- Learn how to take your blood pressure.
- Check your blood pressure every day.
- Keep a log of your results.
- Take heart medications as directed.
- Eat a healthy heart diet:
- Limit your intake of fat to 30% of your total calories.
- 10% to 15% of your total calories should be in the form of monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil.
- Low cholesterol diet.
- Low salt diet.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fats
- Take prescribed medications as directed:
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Diet
A person with an arrhythmia may benefit from the following diet.
Heart Healthy Diet
People with a cardiac arrhythmia should follow a heart healthy diet to reduce the risk of complications.
This diet should include:
- Control calories:
- Eat quality fats:
- Use virgin olive oil and other unsaturated, low-cholesterol fats.
- Eat the right amount of fats, carbohydrates and protein:
- Limit your fat intake to 20 or 30 percent, but don't substitute simple carbohydrates for fat.
- Less than 7% of the day's total calories from saturated fat.
- Up to 10% of the day's total calories from polyunsaturated fat.
- Up to 20% of the day's total calories from monounsaturated fat
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fats
- Avoid fad diets:
- Eat a well-rounded diet instead.
- Eat small, frequent meals.
- Avoid large and heavy meals.
- Limit cholesterol in diet:
- To less than 200 milligrams a day.
- Limit iron intake:
- Eat enough dietary fiber:
- Whole grains are best.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
- Reduce salt in your diet
- Optimal: no more than 1,500 milligrams per day.
- Check with your doctor about supplementing your diet with B vitamins:
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Pacemaker
Magnetic fields can reset or disable some pacemakers. Small magnets should be kept away from the chest wall. Considerable distance must be kept from very strong magnets such as those found in MRI scanners.
The metal in a pacemaker may set off metal detectors in airport and other security stations. Keep your pacemaker wallet card with you at all times.
If you have a pacemaker, call for:
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Pulse Check
If you have an arrhythmia, it is important to learn how monitor your pulse at home.
The pulse may be taken in a few locations, but the most commonly used location is the wrist.
Locations for Taking a Pulse
- Wrist: the radial artery is located in the wrist crease, on the thumb-side. This is an excellent place to measure the pulse.
- Neck: the carotid artery lies on either side of the Adam's apple, just in front of the large muscle in the neck. Check the pulse on one side only: never press on both carotid arteries at the same time.
- Elbow: the brachial artery is located in the elbow crease, on the inner aspect of the elbow, next to the bicep tendon.
- Groin: the femoral artery is located in the crease between the thigh and the abdomen, halfway between the pubic hair and the hip.
- Ankle: the posterior tibial artery is located on the inside of the ankle, right behind the prominent bone, called the medial malleolus, on the inside aspect of the ankle.
In order to feel the pulse, place the tips of your index and middle fingers over the artery, and then press gently. Do not obstruct the flow through the vessel.
Interpreting Pulse Results
Count the number of pulsations that occur over 20 seconds, and then multiply this number by three. The result is the heart rate, or number of heartbeats per minute.
When measuring the pulse, try to assess the rate and the rhythm. Take note of an unsteady rhythm or extra beats. Report a rapid heart rate or extra beats to your doctor.
Normal Values for Resting Pulse
|Age Range||Average Beats Per Minute|
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Stimulants
Avoid common stimulants and substances such as:
- Diet pills:
- Allergy medications
Caffeine is a very common stimulant that is present in a variety of beverages. Avoiding caffeine is important for most people with cardiac arrhythmias.
Caffeine Content in Beverages
|8 ounce cup (240 cc) of brewed (drip) coffee||65 to 120 mg|
|8 ounce cup (240 cc) of instant coffee||60 to 85 mg|
|8 ounce cup (240 cc) of decaf coffee||2 to 4 mg|
|1 ounce (30 cc) of expresso||30 to 50 mg|
|8 ounce (240 cc), brewed US tea||25 to 110|
|8 ounce (240 cc), brewed imported tea||24 to 31 mg|
|Instant iced tea||9 to 50 mg|
|Caffeinated 8 ounce (240 cc) soft drink||20 to 40 mg|
|Cocoa, 8 ounce cup (240 cc)||3 to 32 mg|
|Chocolate milk, 8 ounce cup (240 cc)||2 to 7 mg|
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Stress
Tips to manage stress in a person with an arrhythmia:
- Accept what you cannot change.
- Allow yourself to cry.
- Allow yourself to experience simple pleasures that give you joy.
- Ask for help if you need it.
- Associate with people you enjoy and who treat you well.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol.
- Do not be dominated by one thing, such as work or relationships.
- Do not feel guilty when you have to say "no" to extra duties or tasks.
- Donate some of your time in order to help others.
- Energize your body with regular exercise.
- Engage in hobbies.
- Fuel your body with healthy foods
- Have the courage to be imperfect.
- Make a list of all the stresses that cause you distress: dispose of the ones you can and reduce your exposure to the others as much as possible.
- Practice relaxation and meditation.
- Reevaluate and rearrange your priorities.
- Schedule time for fun. Laughter dissolves tension.
- Seek professional help when you are overwhelmed.
- Stay on a regular sleep schedule.
- Take a few minutes of quiet time each day.
- Take responsibility for how you feel.
- Talk with someone you trust.
- Avoid stimulants, such as:
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Taking Control
The successful treatment of arrhythmia requires your participation. Here are answers to some important questions.
Do you have control over your health and wellness?
Many people believe they have no control over their health and wellness. Many ignore personal health decisions or simply leave them to their doctors, relatives, or friends. In reality, you have the greatest potential to determine your relative health.
How is this possible? Do people really have control of their own health? The biggest killers are heart disease and cancer. Although many of these diseases seem to strike at random, our lifestyle choices greatly influence personal risk.
How can you participate in your health care?
To participate you must:
- Learn to take responsibility for your own health.
- Learn to partner with your doctor.
- Learn how to make active decisions about your health.
How can you learn what you need to know?
- Educate yourself.
- Be skeptical: Learn to separate fact from fiction.
- Billions of dollars are spent each year marketing dietary supplements, vitamins, and new medical treatments. Much of this is unnecessary and wasteful.
- Be careful about where you get your health information.
- Some of the best sources for health information on the web are professional societies and non-profit organizations.
- Ask your doctor what he or she recommends.
- Examine the credentials of the authors.
- If you are reading about symptoms and disease, your best source is a licensed physician.
- Pay attention to when the content was last updated.
- Make sure the person is not just trying to sell you something.
Important questions you need to answer:
- What things in your control can increase your risk for disease?
- What can you do to decrease this risk?
- What are vaccines and how can they help you?
- How do your lifestyle choices increase your risk for disease?
- How can you reduce stress?
- What minor health problems can you treat at home?
- When is a medical problem "serious"?
- When should you call the doctor?
How can you find the right doctor?
- Everyone should have a primary care physician or family doctor. A primary physician is usually a family practitioner, internist, or pediatrician.
- Establish a relationship in advance with your doctor.
- Make sure you are comfortable with your primary care physician.
- The internet contains many resources where you can do research to locate the doctor that is best for you.
- You may wish to schedule a brief visit with the doctor to see if he or she is right for you.
- Be open-minded, and allow your doctor to know you well. This will improve communication.
Important information you need to make your decision:
- Physician credentials:
- Internship and residency training is usually best from respected institutions, universities, and major hospitals.
- Look for board certification in the specialty.
- Ask about membership in medical societies.
- Community and professional reputation are also important.
- Are other patients happy with the doctor?
- Has the doctor been disciplined by hospitals or agencies?
- How long has the doctor been in practice?
- In general, more than a few malpractice suits over a 5-10 year period should trigger caution.
- Does the doctor communicate well? Are your questions answered during busy times?
- Does the doctor welcome you to help make decisions about your care?
- Is the doctor available when you need care?
- What is the doctor's after-hours coverage?
- Is he or she a member of a large group?
- Do the doctors' cross-cover one another?
- Where do they admit patients?
What is shared decision making?
You and your doctor must work together to jointly decide the best course of action to manage your health. This process is called "shared decision making". Your doctor becomes a guide and teacher and helps steer you toward the best treatment. Most doctors welcome this partnership. You must learn about your illnesses for shared decision-making to work.
For any recommended test, medication, or surgery, remember to ask:
- How will this help me?
- How much will it cost?
- Is it covered by your insurance?
- What are the potential side effects and risks?
- What are my alternatives?
For tests, remember to ask:
- Is it done in the office or at another facility?
- Is it painful?
- How will the results of this test influence my care?
For surgery or other procedures, remember to ask:
- How long will it take to heal?
- How many cases has the doctor done?
- What would your doctor do if he or she were the patient?
- Where is it done?
- Who will perform it?
- What are the doctor's qualifications?
What should you expect?
Shared decision making becomes impossible if you do not know what to expect from your doctor.
The American Hospital Association has published a "Patient's Bill of Rights" that is a good guide. It states that you have the right:
- To be spoken to in words that you understand
- To be told what's wrong with you
- To know the benefits of any treatment and any alternatives
- To know what a treatment or test will cost
- To share in treatment decisions
- To read your medical record
- To refuse any medical procedure
What should you do before an office visit?
- Bring all important medical information with you to the visit.
- Make sure you can answer questions about the following:
- Allergies and side effects to medicines
- Current medicines you are taking. This includes herbs and vitamins. Make a list if necessary.
- Insurance information
- Marital and sexual history
- Past injuries and hospital stays
- Past medical problems
- Past surgeries and operations
- Pre-visit questionnaires
- Use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs
- Work history
What should you expect from the visit?
- You should plan to wait if you go without an appointment. Emergencies or sick patients in the hospital may interrupt your doctor.
- Bring along a book or toys for the kids. You may also have to wait during busy times.
- Tell your doctor about your problem in a clear manner. Start from the beginning and go through each symptom as it appeared.
- Before the visit, think about what makes your problem better or worse. Your doctor will probably ask you questions about this.
- Most doctors ask many questions about unrelated symptoms. These questions help assure that there are no other problems that need attention.
- Be sure to answer all questions truthfully. This includes sensitive questions about smoking, drug use, sexual activity, and work. Your history is the most important part of deciding what is wrong with you.
- If you have any difficulty communicating your concerns, bring a family member or friend to assist in this task.
- Talk to your doctor and do not leave the office without asking necessary questions. Your doctor can make you more comfortable if he or she understands your concerns.
What should you know about your medications?
Every year many people become ill because of problems with medications.
Remember to ask:
- What side effects to expect.
- What drug interactions are possible.
- Find out if a new medicine reacts with those that you are taking now.
- Many over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements can also cause serious side effects and drug interactions.
- Some drugs interact with certain foods, vitamins, nicotine, and alcohol.
- Make sure you can drive or operate machines safely while taking a medicine.
- Ask your doctor how much a prescription costs.
- Is there a less expensive option or a generic version?
What is a treatment plan?
A treatment plan is what you and your doctor decide to do for an illness. A treatment plan cannot be effective without your participation.
Three simple questions can help you get the most from your treatment plan:
- What is my main problem?
- What do I need to do?
- Why is it important for me to do these things?
Other important points:
- Be sure you understand your treatment plan.
- Stick with the treatment plan and allow time for improvement.
- Don't stop medicines when you feel better; check with your doctor first.
- Call your doctor if your condition is becoming worse.
- Your doctor should tell you what to expect and when to follow-up or call the office.
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Warning Signs
Notify your doctor if you have an arrhythmia and any of the following:
Continue to Abnormal Heart Rhythm Complications
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- Page RL. Clinical practice. Newly diagnosed atrial fibrillation. N Engl J Med. 2004 Dec 2;351(23):2408-16. 
- Rubart M, Zipes DP. Mechanisms of sudden cardiac death. J Clin Invest. 2005 Sep;115(9):2305-15. 
- Stieber J, Hofmann F, Ludwig A: Pacemaker channels and sinus node arrhythmia. Trends Cardiovasc Med 2004 Jan; 14(1): 23-8.