Fast heart rate (Tachycardia)
In rare cases, heart palpitations can be a symptom of a more serious heart condition, such as an irregular heartbeat, that may require treatment.
Tachycardia can be triggered by stress, exercise, movement, medication, or rarely a medical problem.
Although Tachycardia can be worrisome, they are usually harmless because they are still pumping efficiently. Tachycardia can be prevented by avoiding triggers.
In rare cases, Tachycardia can be a symptom of a more serious heart condition, such as an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), that may require treatment.
Tachycardia symptoms may feel like:
Heart rate flutters.
Feel a fast heartbeat and palpitations.
You may feel your heart pounding in your throat as well as your chest. Tachycardia can occur while active or at rest while standing, sitting, or lying down.
If concerned about Tachycardia, see your doctor. Cardiac monitoring may be recommended to see if the palpitations are due to a serious heart problem. Seek emergency medical attention if Tachycardia is accompanied by:
Shortness of breath.
Chest tightness or pain.
Often the cause of the Tachycardia cannot be found. It is thought that common causes of Tachycardia include:
Strong emotional reactions, such as stress or anxiety.
Associated with hormonal changes during pregnancy, menstruation, or menopause.
Take cold and cough medicine that contains pseudoephedrine, a stimulant.
Take certain asthma medications that contain stimulants.
However, sometimes Tachycardia can be a sign of a serious underlying problem, such as an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or an irregular rhythm (arrhythmia). Arrhythmias may include fast, slow, or other irregular heartbeats (atrial fibrillation).
You may be at risk of developing Tachycardia if:
Have an anxiety disorder or frequently experience panic attacks.
Taking medications that contain stimulants, such as some cold or asthma medications.
Have other heart problems, such as arrhythmia, structural heart defect, or a previous heart attack.
Unless Tachycardia is a sign of underlying heart disease, Tachycardia has little risk of complications.
If Tachycardia is a sign of underlying heart disease, complications may include:
Fainting. If the heart beats very fast, blood pressure may drop. This may be more likely if there is a heart problem, such as congenital heart disease or certain heart valve problems.
Heart stop. Rarely, tachycardia may be caused by a life-threatening arrhythmia and may cause circulatory arrest.
Stroke. If the tachycardia worsens, the heart vibrates instead of beating properly. This can cause blood clots to form. If the clot breaks loose, it can travel and obstruct the flow of a brain artery, causing a stroke. This can damage part of the brain or lead to death.
Heart failure. This may be because the heart has not pumped efficiently for a long time due to an arrhythmia, such as atrial fibrillation. Sometimes, controlling the pace of arrhythmia is the cause of heart failure.
Tests and diagnostics
If your doctor thinks you have Tachycardia, he will first listen to your heart using a stethoscope to see if your heart is beating irregularly or too fast. Your doctor may also look for signs of a medical problem that can cause Tachycardia, such as hyperthyroidism.
Your doctor will order tests that may include:
Electrocardiogram (ECG). In a non-invasive test, a technician places electrodes on your chest to record electrical pulses of your heart. ECG - records electrical signals and can help your doctor detect heart rhythm and structural abnormalities that can cause Tachycardia. An exercise electrocardiogram can be recorded.
ECG strip showing a normal heartbeat
ECG strip showing Tachycardia
Holter monitor. The Holter monitor is a portable device that carries continuous ECG recording, usually 24 to 72 hours. Holter monitors are used to detecting tachycardia that is not found during routine electrocardiographic testing.
Record events. If there are no irregular heartbeats while monitoring Holter, the doctor may then suggest wearing an event recorder. Monitor for days, and push the button on the recorder to record your heart rate when experiencing symptoms. It may be necessary to wear the event recorder for several weeks.
X-ray. X-rays may be taken to see the size and shape of the heart to help identify abnormal heart structures that can cause Tachycardia.
Echocardiography. Noninvasive, which includes transthoracic ultrasound, provides detailed images of heart structure and function. Ultrasound waves are transmitted, and echoes are recorded with a transducer outside the body. The computer uses the information from the transducer to create a moving image on the video screen.
Treatments and drugs
Unless your doctor sees an underlying heart problem, a fast heart rate rarely requires medication or surgical treatment. Instead, your doctor may recommend ways to avoid the hormones that cause Tachycardia.
If the Tachycardia is caused by an underlying problem such as an arrhythmia, treatment will focus on correcting the underlying problem.
Lifestyle and Remedies
The best way to treat Tachycardia at home is to avoid the hormones that may be causing the symptoms. Some ways to avoid triggers include:
Reduce stress or anxiety. You are more likely to have Tachycardia if you are anxious or during times of stress. You can try to reduce these feelings through relaxation techniques, exercise, or talking to a person or family member.
Avoid stimulants. Stimulants can make the heartbeat fast or irregularities can cause Tachycardia. Stimulants can include caffeine, nicotine, some cold medicines, and herbal supplements, such as those found in energy drinks.
Avoid illegal drugs. Illegal drugs, such as cocaine, can make your heart beat faster.