Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Pacemakers, iPods out of sync

Heart Beat

Pacemakers, iPods out of sync

If you have a pacemaker or implanted cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), you've probably been warned not to keep a cell phone in your breast pocket or hold it near your heart. The same rule should apply to an iPod or other portable music or video player. A study presented at the Heart Rhythm Society meeting this spring showed that a turned-on iPod held two inches away from the chest for 5 to 10 seconds can interfere with a pacemaker's function. In most cases the interference was minor, such as making the pacemaker store a record of a heart rhythm problem when none existed. In one of the 100 volunteers, though, the music player prevented the pacemaker from sending "beat now" signals when it was supposed to. Although the study tested only iPods, it is likely that other digital music players would do the same things.

iPods aren't the province of the young. We've seen plenty of older folks using them while exercising or walking. If you use one and have a pacemaker or ICD, follow the common-sense strategies you use with a cell phone or other source of electromagnetic energy — keep the device a foot or two away from your heart.

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