What Cardiologists Should Be Telling Patients about Their Phones

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Heart Attack
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Recently, a colleague’s father received a pacemaker and was given a list of precautions to take. But nowhere on the list did the cardiologist mention avoiding cell and cordless phones—which can be a real danger to your pacemaker and your heart. The same danger exists for folks with intra-cardiac defibrillators (ICDs).

The reason is that your heart is more than a muscle; it’s a finely tuned electrical system. Pacemakers and ICDs are inserted when the heart needs help maintaining a healthy, steady beat. So, when you introduce a cell or cordless phone that emits its own microwave radio frequency, it can interfere with the pacemaker or ICD—and can even damage the heart itself.

During my review of scientific research on the subject for an upcoming lecture, I noticed that as far back as 1970 the Russians were reporting problems with on-the-job exposure to microwave radiation—the same time type of radiation that’s used in these phones. They looked at 105 young men (all under 40) who’d been exposed for to several milliwatts per cm2 for 5 years.

This is what they found:


That was 1970. Then, in 2010 Canadian Magda Havas confirmed that 20% of healthy subjects developed cardiac arrhythmias when provoked by a cell phone base—some within seconds.

Yet, when you purchase a cell or cordless phone, no one asks you if you have a device in your heart at the checkout counter. It’s your responsibility to know what to avoid. But this advice goes beyond those with pacemakers and ICDs—we all need to be careful with our phones.

If you have a pacemaker or ICD, use a hardwired old fashioned landline as often as you can and never carry an actively working cell phone on your body. When talking, use the speaker phone feature and set the phone on a surface away from your body.  Plus, when you can, text instead of calling which exposes you to less radiation. Just be sure to keep the phone on a surface and away from you while you type.

Now, it’s your turn: Do you take precautions with your cell and cordless phones?

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