Most heart arrhythmias are harmless and require no
treatment. Some are more serious, even life threatening. If you have an
arrhythmia, you might want to try alternative treatments in addition to the
treatment plan your doctor has prescribed. Always discuss any alternative or
complementary treatments with your doctor first. Some can be harmful if used
Research published in the Journal
of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology suggests that acupuncture may help
prevent abnormal heart rhythms after cardioversion for atrial fibrillation (AF).
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Studies show that people who eat consume fatty fish— such as
salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and albacore tuna— are at a lower risk for
heart disease. That’s because these fish
are high in omega-3 fatty acids, and are an especially good source of the
essential fatty acids EPA and DHA. Supplementing
your diet with these fish and their oils may improve heart health and prevent
arrhythmias. The benefits of fish oils may be seen within 90 days of regular
use. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of these
cold-water fatty fish per week.
We all need vitamin C, but 20 to 30 percent of adults in the
United States don’t get enough. Vitamin C is used for colds, flu, and even
cancer, and research shows that it might help with arrhythmia.
In heart surgery, atrial fibrillation (characterized by an
irregular, rapid heartbeat) is a problem for 25 to 40 percent of patients. In
one small study,
vitamin C was shown to reduce the post-operative occurrence of atrial
fibrillation by as much as 85 percent.
In another study,
after cardioversion (a medical procedure to correct irregular heartbeat) for
persistent AF, arrhythmia recurred in four-and-a-half percent of patients who
received vitamin C. It recurred in 36.3 percent of those who did not receive
Arrhythmia and other heart conditions are associated with
oxidant stress and inflammation. Antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E appear
to be effective in reducing these.
These minerals help keep your heart stable. Too little
magnesium can cause irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, and irritability. Too
much magnesium can cause bradycardia (slow heart rate), dizziness, blurred
vision, and breathing difficulty. Most diets are low in magnesium. Aging and
some medications (such as diuretics, or “water pills”) can deplete magnesium.
Low potassium may cause arrhythmia and muscle weakness.
Magnesium and potassium, along with sodium and calcium, are
examples of substances in the blood called electrolytes. Electrolytes help
trigger and regulate electrical impulses in the heart. Low levels of magnesium and potassium can
lead to an electrolyte imbalance, which contributes to arrhythmia. Magnesium
and potassium supplements might help reduce your symptoms.
The herb hawthorn is often used to treat palpitations[KRH1] . According to the Lahey
Clinic, this herb was prominent in ancient Roman rituals, and has been used
since the Middle Ages to treat a variety of conditions, including heart
ailments. Today, it is sometimes used to treat congestive heart failure and may
help with irregular heartbeat, but studies of its effectiveness in treating
arrhythmia are inconclusive.
NAC is a modified amino acid. There is some evidence to suggest that it
can reduce [KRH2] atrial fibrillation after open heart
The following supplements are sometimes recommended for
arrhythmia, but there is little evidence of their effectiveness:
- vitamin D
- lady’s slipper
The following supplements can cause arrhythmia and should be
- cola nut
Before you take any supplements, talk with your doctor. Some
potent herbal supplements could have adverse interactions with certain
prescription or over-the-counter medications that you may be taking. While the right amounts of these substances
might be helpful, the wrong amount can be harmful or even fatal.
- DHA and EPA can
cause bleeding if taken with warfarin (Coumadin). They must be stopped at
least two weeks before any surgery.
- Magnesium should
not be taken if you have kidney failure or myasthenia gravis.
- Potassium can cause
rash, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Potassium should not be taken if you
have hyperkalemia (high blood potassium). Even if you are potassium
deficient, you should consult your doctor before taking a potassium
- Vitamin C can be
toxic if you have hemochromatosis, thalassemia, sideroblastic anemia, sickle
cell anemia, or erythrocyte glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD)
deficiency. Do not take vitamin C if you have kidney stones or kidney
- Vitamin E can cause
bleeding if taken with warfarin. It can be a problem if you have a vitamin
K deficiency. It can cause problems if you have a history of liver failure
or any bleeding disorder such as peptic ulcer, hemophilia, or hemorrhagic
stroke. Stop taking vitamin E a month before any surgery.
Alternative therapies can be helpful in treating arrhythmia,
but only if used properly. Always talk to your doctor first.